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Calls for 'violent' protest to be condemned by union

Gratte Brothers has called on Unite and the Joint Industry Board to condemn a “violent” protest at its headquarters.

The contractor said 40 protestors carrying placards attacking the proposed BESNA agreement forced their way into its head office on 23 November.

It claims a female member of staff was pushed to the ground and that protesters chained the front doors after failing to get beyond reception, where they were blocked by staff.

A Gratte Brothers spokesman said: “This was not a peaceful protest. It was violent and abusive. Female staff members found this very intimidating.

“This was an act of trespass by a group of people who do not represent our workforce. We would expect Unite and the JIB to condemn these actions.”

The response came as Balfour Beatty denied claims by Unite that it plans to cut up to 1,300 directly employed workers and replace them with semi-skilled agency labour. A company statement said: “Balfour Beatty Engineering Services categorically refutes that teams would consist of one craftsman working with eight semi-skilled installer grades.”

The demonstrations are in protest against plans by seven of the largest M&E contractors to change the existing JIB pay agreements for M&E workers under the BESNA agreement. The protesters say the new deal would result in de-skilling, reductions in pay and worse conditions.

The Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association, which represents the seven firms and the BESNA agreement, disputes the protesters’ claims, saying the new agreement will bring the industry in line with modern practices.