NG Bailey wants to move from paying employees in its engineering division on a weekly basis to a four-weekly (lunar month) system to save money.
Under the Joint Industry Board (JIB) electrical agreement and BESA agreements (for heating and ventilation engineers), to which NG Bailey adheres, such changes need to be agreed with the relevant union, which is Unite.
However Unite refused to agree to the changes because members were unhappy with the proposals. More than 200 individual grievances were submitted and Unite also submitted a collective grievance. NG Bailey is seeking to tie the individual and collective grievances together.
What is particularly troubling to union officials is that NG Bailey then sent a questionnaire to ask staff directly if they are member of Unite. The company says that it needs to know who to treat as an individual in the grievance process and who is part of the collective.
But the union thinks that asking about union membership has sinister connotations especially given that NG Bailey was part of the Consulting Association blacklisting scandal and has also been accused of being involved in contemporary blacklisting on the Crossrail project.
Unite national officer Ian Woodland said: “By trying to force workers to reveal if they are members of Unite, NG Bailey is guilty of union busting and potentially victimising trade unionists. Rather than deal with the legitimate issues workers have with moving from weekly pay to lunar pay, they are seeking to undermine Unite and weaken workers’ collective voice.
“Unfortunately, NG Bailey has a long history of being involved in blacklisting. Despite having paid a considerable financial penalty for it in the past, its employee relations department appears not to have learned those lessons.
“NG Bailey need to withdraw this sinister questionnaire, return to the negotiating table and resolve this issue sensibly and without threats or attempts to intimidate workers.”
An NG Bailey spokesperson said: “NG Bailey has, since August 2020, been in consultation with weekly paid employees and Unite the Union on our proposal to change from a weekly to four weekly (lunar pay) pay model.
“This is one of several measures being considered as part of a drive to improve efficiency across the business and predominately protect our directly employed hourly paid workforce, following the significant and long-term impact Covid-19 is having on our industry.
“This intended change, which concerns our Engineering division, does not affect any National Agreement pay provisions, or the terms and conditions of those employees currently being paid on a weekly basis. This proposed change only seeks to change pay from weekly to four weekly (lunar pay).
“We would disagree that the objection has been universal, with some employees in favour of this change.
“Since receiving a collective grievance, the consultation period has been placed on hold and in agreement with Unite the Union, the status quo maintained, with any decisions on implementation postponed until the grievance process is concluded and consultation can resume.
“As part of the consultation, we have held several constructive meetings with representatives of our Engineering Workforce Forum, with Unite present at all meetings. We are disappointed by the misleading claims made by Unite about the process we have followed as they have been involved collaboratively throughout.
“At the last consultation meeting, Unite advised that a collective grievance approach was preferred; they also stated that they would only represent their own members during any individual grievances.
“Based upon this, we contacted all those who had submitted an individual grievance to ask them if they wished to co-join the collective grievance, or whether they wished to pursue an individual grievance.
“It is important to us that these grievances are dealt with correctly and in-line with the wishes of our employees. We would welcome the opportunity to continue consulting with our employees and Unite on this matter, which until recently has been constructive dialogue.”