The electrical contractors, which include Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey, have snubbed the Joint Industry Board (JIB) run by Unite and the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) which usually draws up the agreement. They say they will leave the JIB - which has been operating since 1968 - in March next year.
A spokesperson for the eight electrical contractors said that workers will not be worse off but unions claim that electricians wages could be cut by 35 per cent.
A spokesperson for the contractors said: “Not a single worker will be any worse off. The contractors are making that clear to their workforces.”
Construction Enquirer reported that Unite’s national secretary for construction, Bernard McAulay, said the union had rejected the firms’ proposals at a meeting on Tuesday and refused to rule out a strike ballot, saying it was part of their 'long-held ambition of introducing semi-skilled operatives on much lower rates of pay.
About 100 workers attended an unofficial protest against the proposals outside the Blackfriars station site in London on Wednesday at which Balfour Beatty is the main contractor. A spokesperson for the protesters said more protests were planned outside projects including the Olympic park in Stratford, Media City in Manchester and power generation plants.
Steve Kelly, Unite’s London and South-east branch secretary, said he believed the eight contractors’ decision to pull out for the JIB pay agreement was driven by profit “pure and simple”. But he claimed strike action would be successful in stopping the scheme from coming into force.
A protestor, who did not want to be named, told Building: “The fat cats are getting fatter and the rest of us are paying the price”. He claimed contractors were charging the same for projects while cutting wages to boost profit margins.
Barry Smith, an electrician who claims he’s been blacklisted, said: “The recession has emboldened contractors to cut wages. They think with the recession that they can force our hand.”