“One down, seven to go” – Unite sparks win first contract battle

by - 27th September 2011, 10.21 GMT

Unite has won the first battle in the war against ‘take it or leave it’ contracts after one of the eight rogue employers broke from the rest and told the union it would not impose the new contracts on its workforce.

MJN Colston has confirmed it no longer wishes to tear up long-established collective agreements.

A delighted electrician told UnionNews: “One down, seven to go!”

Unite had warned the break-away eight to ‘pull back from the brink’ as their move would lead to industrial unrest and would compromise the ability for those companies to deliver projects on time and within budget.

UnionNews yesterday reported live from a demonstration at the Lindsey Oil Refinery.

Unite national officer for construction, Bernard McAulay, said: “We are pleased that MJN Colston has seen sense and returned to the collective agreement.

“The last few weeks has seen large protests across the country. Our members are clearly angry at having their agreements torn up and being threatened with dismissal if they do not sign up to new inferior terms and conditions.

“The agreement was set up forty years ago to end industrial unrest and introduce stability into the sector. Now because of the bullying way these companies are behaving we are seeing instability creeping back.

“We hope that Balfour Beatty, Crown House and the rest come back to the negotiating table so that we can move forward in a sensible and constructive way.”

Workers in five of the eight breakaway companies have been written to by their managers with a stark choice – sign new contracts on much inferior pay, and terms and conditions or face the sack on 7 December.

The employers want to withdraw from five long-held agreements and replace them with a new agreement which will allow employers to introduce semi-skilled grades and dictate rather than negotiate on pay, holiday entitlement, overtime, and what constitutes away work.

But five of the eight have upped the stakes. Balfour Beatty, Crown House Technologies, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services and NG Bailey have issued Unite with legal notice of their intention to dismiss, with notice, thousands of employees before re-engaging them on new inferior contracts.