Engineering: More can be won

Submitted by Newcastle on 24 September, 2009 - 8:06 Author: By Elaine Jones and Vicki Morris

The threat of strike action by engineering construction workers in GMB and Unite unions has won an improved offer on pay and conditions from employers. Workers had been balloted at seven major sites.

The new offer is for a two-year pay deal of 2% in 2010 and an inflation-linked rise in 2011 with a minimum of 1%. It also offers better auditing of employers’ compliance, a process to develop a skills register and database of construction workers. Initially the employers had said no pay rise was possible in the current economic climate.

A meeting of GMB and Unite shop stewards decided on 17 September to recommend the new offer and approve the proposed new National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI). Unite will now hold a consultative ballot of its members in construction.

Unite’s assistant general secretary Les Bayliss said: “Following months of intense negotiations, the union is now in a position to recommend an offer...

“With a significant number of new build projects on the horizon, the construction industry is hugely important...”

However, some union activists suspect loopholes in the new agreement. One particular concern is what will happen when workers are hired for the new nuclear power plants being built by French company E.ON.

Two successful waves of unofficial action by engineering construction workers in January-February and June this year arose from bosses using whole workforces shipped in from contractors elsewhere in Europe to undercut the union agreement.

Some activists, notably from the Lindsey Oil Refinery site at the centre of those strike waves, are recommending that the offer is turned down in favour a fight for a tighter agreement.

NAECI has operated since 1981. If the new agreement is accepted it will run from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011.

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