Trade union says seven construction firms acted as cartel

A LEADING trade union is to report seven major construction firms to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), claiming they acted in an anti-competitive way by driving down pay and conditions.

A LEADING trade union is to report seven major construction firms to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), claiming they acted in an anti-competitive way by driving down pay and conditions.

Unite said it was the first complaint of its kind by a union and comes in a continuing dispute which has sparked a series of protests across the country for months. Today the union will announce the result of a ballot for industrial action at one of the firms, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services.

Unite claimed that the companies are breaking competition law by tearing up agreements and working together to set new pay and conditions.

The union said it was concerned that the companies were acting as a cartel by cutting pay and conditions, which allowed them to undercut their rivals.

Unite national officer Bernard McAuley said: “These seven companies are trying to undermine long-standing agreements which have served this industry well for decades. These agreements acted as a level playing field in the construction sector.

“By breaking away and paying significantly less, these employers will have a competitive advantage over other companies. We hope Balfour Beatty and the companies involved see sense in the face of the complaint we are making to the OFT.”

The other firms involved are NG Bailey Building Services, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services (SES) and T Clarke.

The Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA) trade body said it did not believe it had broken any rules and called for talks with the union on the new so-called Besna agreement covering pay and conditions.

A spokesman said: “The HVCA has not been approached by the Office of Fair Trading and we’re not aware of any of the seven companies being approached either.

“There are strict guidelines in place concerning competition law and we do not believe that any of these rules has been broken.”

 
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