I certainly don’t want to go around claiming false victories where there aren’t any, but this article from the (decidedly non-radical) Construction Enquirer should be of interest to anyone who’s been paying attention to the sparks’ struggle:
The BESNA deal is “finished” after M&E contractors decided to follow Balfour Beatty’s lead and abandon the reforms.
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services dramatically pulled-out of the BESNA deal last week following pressure from union Unite and rank-and-file sparks.
The move left the six remaining firms – NG Bailey, Crown House, Gratte Brothers, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services and T Clarke – in the lurch.
The Enquirer understands there is a split between the six over strategy.
But one source close to the situation said: “One thing is definite, BESNA is finished.
“Some of the firms will instantly follow Balfour’s lead and pull out of the deal.
“But others are standing back with a watching brief.
“We have signed-up more than 90% of workers to the new terms and conditions which will make them between £40 and £100 a week better off.
“How do you turn round and take that away from them now? We’ll leave that one to the union to explain.”
Balfour is still hoping to modernise the M&E sector and Unite has agreed to “wide-ranging talks on modernising the industry” via the trade associations.
But one industrial relations expert told the Enquirer: “Talk about modernising the sector has been going on for years.
“We nearly got there then Balfour Beatty pulled the rug with its last minute pull-out.
“This was the chance to drag the industry into the twenty first century and Balfour bottled it.
“I can’t see how they can try again after handing the initiative to Unite like that.”
As the article says, it’s a remarkable turnaround after 90% of the workforce had already signed the new contracts. Of course, even if this is the end of BESNA, it certainly won’t be the end of attacks on workers’ conditions in this or any other sector, but at a time when the ruling class generally is such a vicious offensive, this victory is something we can all take a little cheer from – and perhaps a few lessons about tactics as well.
Meanwhile, the Void reports on the increasing numbers of employers who’re pulling out of workfare. Again, the fight over workfare certainly isn’t won yet, but it’s going amazingly well considering how rare it is to see any large-scale resistance over benefits.