Global field service engineers employed by Loughborough-based Brush Electrical Machines, owned by venture capitalists Melrose, are being balloted for strike action in response to ‘fire and rehire’ pay cuts of up to £15,000, Unite said today (April 23).
Unite said around 30 field service engineers, who service transformers around the world, are being balloted from today, with the ballot closing on 10 May.
The proposed contracts include reductions to overtime rates, allowances, holidays and other terms and conditions that would result in a pay cut of between £10,000 and £15,000 a year.
The engineers have been threatened with redundancy if they do not sign the new contracts, which will leave them on pay rates ‘well below industry standard’.
Brush Electrical Machines manufacturers electrical generators for gas and steam turbines.
Parent company Melrose has a reputation for targeting workers and viable operations to boost short-term profits.
Melrose is currently also in dispute with Unite over its plans to close its ‘extremely viable’ GKN automotive driveline factory in Birmingham, which threatens 500 jobs.
Unite regional officer Lakhy Mahal said, “These are skilled engineers who often travel to remote and hostile parts of the globe to do their job. They have worked throughout the pandemic and have dutifully put up with harsh quarantine measures, including being confined to hotels rooms for weeks on end.
“As a reward for their loyalty and service, Brush Electrical and Melrose are trying to force through fire and rehire cuts of up to £15,000,” he added.
“During negotiations, Unite has been told that these cuts are nothing to do with the pandemic. But it is hard not to see them as an opportunistic attempt to take advantage of the economic uncertainty Covid has unleashed. Such behaviour is certainly not out of character for Melrose.
“Our members know their worth and will not stand for pay cuts that would see their pay plummet to well below industry standard,” Mahal went on to say.
“Unite’s door is always open, and this dispute can be prevented from risking severe worldwide disruption for Brush Electrical, if the company tables an offer that is acceptable to our members.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Fire and rehire’ is ripping through our workplaces like a disease. Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.
“It’s a disgraceful practice that’s outlawed in much of Europe and should be here,” he added. “Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency. We won’t stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack.”
By Ryan Fletcher