Hinkley Point C (HPC) electrical contractors Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick and NG Bailey have dropped proposals to create the job of ‘electrical support operative’.
The proposed electrical support operative role was based on a new training standard drawn up specifically for HPC by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB).
“The disputed electrical training standards developed by the ECITB for HPC to create the electrical support operative have been permanently withdrawn by EDF after Unite raised concerns and do not form part of our current or future development plans,” they said.
The announcement appears to bring to an end a simmering argument between the contractors and the Unite trade union, which represents their workforce.
Unite’s concerns about deskilling were raised earlier this year, after it emerged that the two companies, working at HPC in joint venture as Balfour Beatty Bailey, were seeking to introduce training standards for a new position of electrical support operative on the project.
The union viewed the new training standards as deskilling of electricians and objected, preventing the proposals from being implemented.
As a result of the pressure by Unite and the protests, Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey have now, following discussions with the union, issued a statement backing down from the two-tier plan for electricians.
The statement, signed by Simon Lafferty and Mike Darlington, managing directors of Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick and NG Bailey respectively, said:
“Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick and NG Bailey are working together to help deliver the first new nuclear build in the UK for over 20 years. Both companies adhere fully to all Working Rule Agreements as they apply to each of their construction sites across the UK, working with the relevant signatory Trade Unions.
“We are committed going forward to working with the Trade Unions and their representatives in accordance with the consultation and governance structures of HPC and the relevant National Agreements which include the SJIB/JIB.
“Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick and NG Bailey are committed to a programme that supports the development of fully trained and qualified Electricians of the future through the SJIB/JIB Apprenticeship schemes.
“Hinkley Point C has its own bespoke agreement, developed between EDF, Unite and GMB in 2013, which includes a specific Engineering Construction Sector Agreement.
“The disputed Electrical training standards developed by the ECITB for HPC to create the Electrical Support Operative have been permanently withdrawn by EDF after Unite raised concerns and do not form part of our current or future development plans.
“The ECO / HSO role is a specific and an important social commitment in the HPC bespoke agreement, all issues and concerns associated with these unique roles are resolved through the consultation procedures established at HPC. Unite have been fully involved in the consultation process and all parties remain committed to finding an acceptable resolution that meets the intent of the HPC sector agreement, including provision for apprenticeships and is agreed by all parties.
“Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick, NG Bailey and Unite have confirmed that any agreements reached on HPC will only apply to HPC. On other sites all parties, including Unite, will continue to work under the relevant National/Working Rule Agreements, including the SJIB/JIB, and maintain meaningful engagement with each other.
“Going forward EDF, Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick, NG Bailey and Unite commit to established routes and practices of dispute resolution, to ensure the successful delivery of HPC.”
Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “This statement is welcomed and provides clear clarification that the companies are committed to the JIB and the future training of fully qualified electricians.
“Unite’s position was clear from the outset that it would oppose any efforts to weaken the skillset and training of electricians.
“Now that this matter has been put to bed it is imperative that everyone involved in the construction industry commits to work together. This must include how we improve and increase the training of workers to ensure that the sector is an attractive and financially rewarding option for workers.
“Unite has during this period simply sought to protect our highly qualified members against any dilution of their skills.”