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Unite targets HVCA in Besna campaign

11 Oct 11 The Unite union is taking its campaign against new employment terms in the M&E sector against the trade association that has drawn up the new contracts.

Unite believes that the HVCA is “muscling in on new areas to compensate for its financial difficulties”.

Seven members of the Heating & Ventilation Contractors Association (HVCA) have broken away from the Joint Industry Boards (JIBs) and are adopting instead the new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (Besna).

The union claims that the restructuring to bring in a single agreement for mechanical, electrical and plumbing workers will result in pay cuts of up to 30% because of the introduction of a new grade of semi-skilled workers. Until now, it has targeted its fire on the seven contractors. Now, however, it is questioning the ability of the HVCA to take over from the JIBs because it cannot even balance its own books.

Unite national officer Bernard McAulay said: “It is very worrying that the HVCA wants to expand its role in delivering hugely  controversial changes  in electrical and plumbing contracting, yet it doesn't seem to be able to balance its books.

“We can only question why Balfour Beatty, Crown House and the others want to put their lot in with an organisation that is seemingly inefficient.”

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In the year ending February  2011, the HVCA ran up a deficit of £303,644, as income fell from £14.3m to £13.4m, Unite points out. At the same time, staff remuneration increased, from £7,286,376 to £7,364,049. This followed a loss in the year to February 2010 of £17,020.

Unite also questions whether the HVCA’s training provider - Building Engineering Services Training Limited (BEST) - will be the best organisation to solely deliver all electrical and plumbing apprenticeship training, as is currently being proposed by the breakaway employers.  In the year to February 2010, BEST returned a loss of £74,826 compared with a profit in the previous year of £29,298. And on the last comparable figures (2008/9), BEST’s Advanced Apprenticeships pass rate was only 65%, compared to the JIB’s biggest electrical training provider, JTL, which has an 80% success rate.

“Unite is very concerned that BEST is to be HVCA’s sole training agent, yet its success rate for advanced apprenticeships is much worse than the JTL and many other existing training providers. BEST also can’t balance its books,” added Mr McAulay.

Unite said that it believes that “HVCA is muscling in on new areas to compensate for its financial difficulties”. The union has been told that the HVCA intends that its SKILLcard will replace all current skills cards, for BEST to be the sole training agent, and that the Welpan benefits scheme will replace the electrical and the plumbing schemes, with Welpan pensions (formerly known as H&V pensions) becoming the pension scheme. All of these are wholly-owned by the HVCA.

Meanwhile, demonstrations continue at sites where the breakaway seven are working. Protests are planned before work tomorrow morning (Wednesday) outside the Tate Modern art gallery in London, where T Clarkes has an electrical contract on the extension that is currently under construction, and at Manchester Central Library, where NG Bailey is working.

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