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Contractors consult on standard practice

05 September 2011

Eight of the UK’s largest building engineering services contractors have begun an extensive employee consultation on the introduction of a unified national agreement for mechanical, electrical and plumbing operatives.

The proposed Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) – which has been developed by the HVCA in partnership with the eight companies and is now being taken forward by the Association on behalf of the sector as a whole – seeks to provide equal pay and terms and conditions of employment to operatives across all three disciplines, along with a revised grading structure that will create increased opportunities for employee training and advancement and workforce flexibility.

Included in the BESNA are clear commitments that:
 operatives will continue to be directly employed;
 rates of pay will be standardised across the workforce;
 there are no planned redundancies as a direct result of the introduction of the agreement;
 many operatives will benefit from improvements in their existing terms and conditions of employment;
 all pensions and welfare benefits will be maintained.

The agreement also contains fundamental commitments on health and safety, on apprentice and operative training, and on creating opportunities for skills transfer and development.

Commenting on the BESNA, HVCA chief executive Blane Judd said that the introduction of just such a modernised employment framework one which is “fully in line with the current and future needs of the construction industry and its clients” – was long overdue.

“There have been changes in aspects as diverse as working practices, technology and materials prices over the past few years, all of which the building engineering services sector has succeeded in taking on board,” Judd pointed out. “The BESNA provides an integrated approach to the employment of operatives in the sector, and offers significant benefits not only for employers and employees, but also – crucially – for the client.”

Judd added that the development of the BESNA served to underline the commitment of HVCA and its members to the direct employment of the workforce, and that the Association would be re-positioning itself to ensure that it remained relevant to all of its members. And he confirmed that all of the operatives currently employed by the eight companies would be transferred to the new framework “without any downgrading or erosion of their terms and conditions”.

Judd went on to stress that, although Unite had chosen not to participate in negotiations to date, there had been ongoing dialogue with the union, and hope that it would eventually participate in the process. “HVCA believes that Unite’s active participation would be beneficial in securing and implementing a lasting and workable arrangement.”

Formal consultation between the eight major contractors and both Unite and the workforce has started, a procedure that will include the circulation of a copy of the draft BESNA to every operative, and to appropriate Unite representatives.

HVCA’s intention remains to have the agreement – a copy of which is available on request – in place by March 2012. The major contractors involved in the development of the new agreement are: N G Bailey, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, T Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, MJN Colston, Shepherd Engineering Services and SPIE Matthew Hall.


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