Over 1,000 Unite members at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, the construction industry contractor leading the charge to rip up the collective agreement, could strike on 7 December.
The strike is part of a campaign to defend the Joint Industry Board, the union-negotiated agreement governing pay, terms and conditions for electricians in the construction industry.
Unite’s ballot, forced from the union by months of rank-and-file pressure, closes on 28 November. Many rank-and-file activists are frustrated by how long the union has taken to move; 7 December is the day on which BBES plans to unilaterally impose its new contracts, prompting some to argue that the strike will be too little too late.
In the run-up to the construction workers’ national demonstration on 9 November there was further wrangling over what tactics the campaign should employ. Unite officials wanted the demonstration to conclude in a lobby of parliament, with the sparks’ rank-and-file committee arguing for a more direct-action oriented approach. A rank-and-file campaign newsletter argued: “This dispute will be won by stopping production on the big jobs — not by appealing to the good nature of politicians. If we have got thousands of angry sparks in the middle of the City on 9 November, we should do more than just listen to speeches; we should physically close down the sites: The Pinnacle, The Shard, Blackfriars Station, Crossrail.
“This dispute has been led by the rank and file from the beginning, and we will run it on 9 November as well.”