New sector working agreement collapses

Beyond BESNA — Blane Judd.

BESNA, the Building Engineering Services National Agreement, which was heralded as an important step in modernising the industry, has collapsed following the withdrawal by its major participants in the face of strike threats by members of the trade union Unite. A joint statement from the HVCA (now the Building & Engineering Services Association) and Unite said, ‘In consultation with the remaining companies and following discussions with Unite, it has been agreed that the HVCA will withdraw its proposal for the Building Services National Agreement (BESNA).’

Following that decision, Unite agreed not to pursue further industrial action or protests against the seven companies that were trying to implement the agreement.

The first company to withdraw from BESNA, was MJN Colston, which is now in administration. Balfour Beatty Engineering Services followed, then NG Bailey.

A statement from NG Bailey said, ‘The BESNA agreement relied on the UK’s leading engineering companies adopting one single agreement that would introduce a modern working environment. Following the announcement from Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, the future of BESNA is now untenable. NG Bailey can therefore confirm it will withdraw the BESNA contracts and will continue to work to the current working rule agreements. The company welcomes Unite’s statement that it is committed to wide-ranging talks on modernising the industry.’

Following the HVCA (B&ES) decision, Unite agreed not to pursue further industrial action or protests against the BESNA companies.

Looking to the future, BLANE Judd, chief executive of B&ES, said, ‘The association, supported by its member companies, will now engage in high-level talks with Unite within an agreed timeline, with the aim of creating new proposals and ensuring agreed terms are honoured. Despite the best efforts of the association and the significant progress that has been made in recent months, all seven companies who instigated the development of the BESNA have now withdrawn from the initiative.’

Looking ahead, Blane Judd stressed that the association will continue to work toward the modernisation of the sector’s terms and conditions of employment in such a way as to incorporate a number of principles contained in the BESNA — especially those relating to welfare benefits, training and apprenticeships.

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