Thousands of electricians and labourers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, have overwhelmingly rejected a five per cent two-year pay deal in a consultative ballot.
Unite said that the offer was ‘woefully inadequate’, given soaring household bills. A meeting of shop stewards from across the country next Monday (4 August) will decide the next steps, which could include an industrial action ballot.
Unite members are also angry that employers want to introduce a ‘new entrant’ grade with an 18 month probationary period with a pay rate 25 per cent less than the labourers’ grade. The union regards this as ‘the slippery slope to a deskilled workforce’.
Unite balloted more than 7,000 electricians and labourers and by a large margin of 91 per cent they rejected the pay package of two per cent from January 2015 and three per cent from January 2016. The average pay of an electrician, working on the latest cutting-edge technology, is £29,000 a year.
Unite national officer for the construction industry Bernard McAulay today (Monday 28 July) called for the Electrical Contractors’ Association and its Scottish counterpart SELECT – which together represent more than 1,000 employers - to return to the negotiating table to engage in ‘genuine and meaningful’ pay negotiations for 2015 and 2016.
Bernard McAulay said: “The pay offer is woefully inadequate as the cost of living continues to soar. Pay packets are being eroded in real terms, while companies still chalk up handsome profits”
Commenting on the proposed ‘new entrant’ grade, Bernard McAulay criticised: “The cynical approach by both employer associations is yet another direct attack on our electrical members’ terms and conditions in a bid to drive down wages of highly skilled workers.
“The decisive result of the consultative ballot clearly demonstrates that the workforce cannot be bought off when the future stability of the industry grading structure and hard won skills sets are being put at stake.”
He criticised employers who tried to sidestep national agreements through outsourcing work to so-called employment business service providers which supply workers who have few, if any, employment rights.
He added: “Unite will continue to fight very hard to ensure that electricians and labourers across the UK receive the pay and enjoy the terms and conditions that are clearly set-out in the national agreements. There will be no hiding place for bad employers.”
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
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• Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.