Socialist Worker

Victory for electricians as Balfour Beatty forced to back down

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2290

Electricians scored a major victory today as Balfour Beatty withdrew from its plan to force through pay cuts under threat of strikes.

Electricians at the construction firm were set to strike officially next week over new contracts, known as Besna.

The company failed to obtain an injunction against the Unite union at the High Court yesterday. Today it issued a joint statement with Unite.

It said it has “agreed to withdraw the Besna contracts and Unite has agreed not to pursue further industrial action or protest on the basis that wide-ranging talks will now take place on modernising the industry”.

Rank and file electricians across Britain have been protesting, occupying and striking unofficially for the last six months against this vicious attack. This is their victory.

Balfour is the largest of the seven construction firms who sought to tear up the current JIB national agreement.

Besna would cut wages by up to a third and introduce a new lower unskilled grade of electrician.

One member of the London rank and file committee told Socialist Worker, “It's brilliant that Balfour Beatty have finally seen sense and pulled away from imposing the Besna on their workforce.

“This battle is far from over though, as there are still six companies trying to push through this appalling deal.

“The rank and file are determined to beat this though and will be upping the campaign in the coming weeks. With the ballot to come at NG Baileys and SPIE Matthew Hall, I'm sure we’ll win.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Balfour Beatty’s decision to withdraw these contracts, the threat of dismissal and to enter high-level talks is a welcome move.

“Not only is it a victory for common sense, but is testament to the resolve of hard-working construction workers who have stood shoulder to shoulder to defend their livelihoods.”

The protests need to continue to force the other six companies to drop the Besna attack.

The strength of rank and file has been the basis of the success of the dispute. Building on that strength could see the balance shift from the corrupt building bosses to the workers for a change.

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Article information

Fri 17 Feb 2012, 12:45 GMT
Issue No. 2290
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