Up to 20,000 engineering and construction workers are to be balloted for strike action after employers failed to sign up to a new national agreement on working conditions.
The Unite union will ballot its members, who build and maintain the UK’s power stations and petrochemical sites, following a decision by the employers body, the Engineering Construction Industry Association, to reject union demands for amendments to the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI).
The NAECI was introduced in 1981 to ensure safe and fair working conditions in the industry.
Unite said employers had “ridden roughshod” over the agreement by undercutting UK workers and exploiting non-UK labour. The union had called for more equality between UK and non-UK workers and for a comprehensive auditing procedure to ensure employers keep to the national agreement.
Unite’s national officer, Tom Hardacre, said: “Construction employers have rejected reasonable and just demands, which would have delivered long-term stability and fairness in an industry that has been plagued by instability and numerous injustices.
“We now have no other choice but to ballot our members for official industrial action. A ‘yes’ vote will disrupt many of the UK’s major construction projects and petrochemical sites.
“Employers are attempting to dilute a national agreement and turn it into a code of practice. With so much bad practice in the industry, this approach from the employers beggars belief.”
Last month, a government select committee said the Gangmasters Licensing Authority should have its remit extended to cover the construction industry to curb abuses against migrant workers.