Sparks talks tell BESNA bosses “you’re a cartel”

by - 16th December 2011, 6.50 GMT

Seven hours of talks at ACAS to try to resolve the four-month sparks dispute over threatened “sign or be sacked” contracts have broken up with what Unite hopes may be agreement on a timetable for further negotiations, which in turn could lead to the so-called BESNA proposals being scrapped.

Executives from the seven rogue companies are to issue a statement next week with a number of proposals designed to allow further, more detailed, talks to resume in the New Year.

UnionNews understands that Unite rejected a demand from the employers to halt any further ballots for industrial action while talks take place.

Unite is due to issue a timetable to re-ballot more than 1,000 members working at Balfour Beatty. It is also preparing to ballot at two more of the seven employers in the breakaway group.

Rank and file organisers of weekly protests (such as at Longannet power station on Wednesday, above) said last night that it would be “business as usual” for their unofficial action and that they would not accept any deskilling or cuts in pay.

The BESNA group – Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Limited; N G Bailey Building Services; Crown House Technologies; Gratte Brothers; Spie Matthew Hall; Shepherd Engineering Services (SES); and T.Clarke Plc. – has in the past dismissed as “total fiction” Unite’s case that the current proposals will mean 35% pay cuts and will lead to systematic de-skilling across the construction industry.

However, a senior Unite source close to the talks says: “These employers have now accepted that BESNA is not an agreement at all, it is a proposal.

“We told them at ACAS that what they are trying to do is to create a pay-cutting cartel. We believe an agreement is possible if they bring in all the other companies and negotiate a national structure along the lines of the JIB agreements which have served us perfectly well for decades.”

“The ball is firmly in their court now.”

Watch our film report on recent sparks protests defying Balfour Beatty’s threat of an injunction against an 81% vote to strike: