The new agreement is being developed by the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association (HVCA) on behalf of the eight contractors.
Blane Judd, chief executive officer of the HVCA, said that an extensive consultation with employees will be undertaken and that about 6,000 staff would receive copies of the proposed agreement, which the HVCA helped to draw up.
But Bernard McAuley, Unite’s national secretary for construction, responded angrily and said Unite planned to protest outside the sites of all eight contractors, and at other high-profile sites chosen to attract maximum exposure. The union would “demonstrate, and lead this issue”, he said.
The Shard, where a protest was scheduled for 7 September, is one such site, but the protests have now spread beyond London to sites in Newcastle and Manchester.
Previous agreements governing the pay and conditions of electrical contractors’ workers have been agreed between the industry’s trade federations and the unions but the eight firms now plan to consult directly with their staff. Judd said the process could take up to three months.
Judd claims that the introduction of such a modernised employment framework is long overdue. Commenting on the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) he said: “The BESNA provides an integrated approach to the employment of operatives in the sector, and offers significant benefits not only for employers and employees, but also – crucially – for the client.”
Judd confirmed that all of the operatives currently employed by the eight companies would be transferred to the new framework without any downgrading or erosion of their terms and conditions.
And he stressed that, although Unite had chosen not to participate in negotiations to date, there had been ongoing dialogue with the union, and he hoped that it would eventually participate in the process.
The HVCA’s intention is to have the agreement in place by March next year.