Thursday, 5 January 2012


A letter from the Unite the Union General Secretary Len McCluskey. Including templates of letters to attach to your BESNA contract before returning:

04 January 2012

To all unite members employed by the following companies;
Balfour Beatty (and subsidiaries)
NG Bailey
SPIE Matthew Hall
Crown House Technologies
Shepherd Engineering Services
Gratte Brothers 
Tommy Clarke.
Dear Colleague;

It is important that you ensure that the information we hold about you is correct,
including your home address, contact details, job title and place of work. If any of
these have recently changed then please contact your local Unite office immediately.

If you have received a copy of this letter but one of your colleagues at work has not,

the details Unite the union holds about them may well not be up to date - please

encourage them to contact us to update their details.

Unite the union is in receipt of a number of different letters from some of the Majors.
In some cases the Majors appear to be taking a slightly different approach. Unite has
attempted to address these differences in this advice and the example letters for
members (A & B) but if you require any clarification please contact your local Unite
representative who will collate your queries.

The letters sent by the Majors, on or around 12 December, provide a deadline of 9
January 2012 for you to voluntarily agree to their request to vary your terms and
conditions to those set out in the BESNA.
If you agree to their request this will mean that you have ‘voluntarily’ agreed to the
changes to your terms and conditions. It is open to you to do this and if you decide to
do so this will minimise the risks to your employment. However, this will undermine
the industrial campaign and reduce the prospects of us all successfully defending the
existing terms and conditions.

Please note that if you use an example letter you should ensure that your details are
entered into the letter and that you keep a copy for your records.  

Len McCluskey
General Secretary

Scenario A. 

What if I do not voluntarily accept the changes and my employer says it will dismiss me and offer me immediate re-engagement?

If this scenario applies to you, then Unite recommends that you send to your employer “Members’ letter A” urgently.
Some of the Majors, for example, Crown House, have clearly set out their position that, if you do not agree to the proposed changes voluntarily, they will dismiss you and offer you immediate re-engagement from the end of your notice period on the BESNA terms. This is the correct legal approach, although Unite does not agree with it and maintains that the resulting dismissals are unfair.
Unite does not know whether these employers will issue notices of dismissal in line with your individual notice entitlement or give all employees 12 weeks notice.
In this scenario, during your notice period, you are likely to be invited to attend a meeting with your employer. 

Unite’s advice is that you should attend that meeting with a Unite rep and:
• Inform the company of any outstanding concerns regarding the BESNA.
• Ask the company’s representatives to confirm the details of any increase in
pay or remuneration for the company’s Senior Management Team in the last
three years.
• Ask the company’s representatives whether the Company’s Senior Management Team have also been asked to agree to any reduction in their overall remuneration to assist with the Company’s competitiveness.
Please make a note of any response. You should inform them that you will consider what they have said and will, within a reasonable period of time, let them know whether or not you wish to accept their offer of re-engagement on the BESNA. In these circumstances, each individual member will then need to decide, during their notice period, whether or not to agree to the offer of re-engagement.
If you accept re-engagement then your continuity of employment will be protected with the company but your terms and conditions will change to those set out in BESNA. You may be able to pursue a claim of unfair dismissal which, if successful, might result in some limited financial compensation.
If you reject re-engagement then your employment would come to an end once your notice period runs out and you will need to find alternative employment. You would not be entitled to any redundancy pay.
If you reject re-engagement you need to be aware that claims of unfair dismissal in these circumstances are very difficult and could well take 12 months to resolve. This is because British employment law is extremely favourable to the perceived needs of business. The business does not need to show that it could not survive without the changes that are proposed, only that they have a reasonable business belief that the changes are required. The employer must then consult with you individually and with Unite the Union collectively. Assuming the employer takes these steps a Tribunal is likely to conclude that your dismissal is fair and not make an award of compensation

Letter A – to be sent to employer’s who are clearly offering dismissal and re-engagement i.e. Crown House

Member’s Name / Address:

Your employer’s name and address


Dear Sir/Madam


I refer to your letter of 12 December 2011. You have requested that by 9 January 2012 I voluntarily agree to my contract of employment being varied to the BESNA terms and conditions.

If I reject your request, I understand that it is your intention to provide me with notice of dismissal on or after 9 January 2012 and to offer me re-engagement on the BESNA terms before the end of my period of notice. Please confirm that this is the case by return.

In these circumstances, I will consider the position and seek advice before telling you whether or not your offer of re-engagement is accepted.

Please note that this letter should not be treated as communicating any intent to reject any offer of re-engagement made by you. I will, in any event, reserve my rights to pursue a claim of unfair dismissal.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Scenario B 

What if my employer is threatening that if I reject their request for me to vary my contract I will be dismissed without an offer of immediate re-engagement?

In these circumstances please send to your employer members’ letter B urgently. Some of the Majors, for example, NG Baileys have sent letters or documents which Unite considers are likely to cause you considerable concern. NG Baileys document titled ‘Questions and Answers’ goes into significant detail on the BESNA terms and conditions but avoids any clarity on the company’s position over offers of immediate
In NG Bailey’s letter they refer to three options without stating their position on offers of re-engagement after dismissal. The third option states that if you do not reply then they will arrange a meeting with you to discuss it further. If you work for NG Bailey, or your employer has issued a similar letter, then Unite’s advice is to stay neutral at this stage (by sending letter B) and not accept or reject prior to the 9 January 2012. You
should then wait for your individual meeting to be arranged and take further advice from Unite once they have confirmed whether or not they will offer re-engagement.
If NG Bailey’s then confirms that if you reject a voluntary change to your contract they will dismiss you but will offer you immediate reengagement on the BESNA terms,please refer to the advice above in Scenario A.
If NG Bailey’s, SMH, BBES (or any other company) state that they will not offer you re-engagement then you will need to decide what to do individually and collectively.
If you decide to reject BESNA and the company carries through its threat to dismiss you without an offer of re-engagement you will not be paid a redundancy payment and will need to seek alternative employment. You will then have a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds that your employer is obliged to take reasonable steps to minimise the impact of any dismissal and acted unreasonably when it did not offer
you re-engagement on the BESNA terms. However, you should be aware that claims of unfair dismissal could take as long as 12 months to resolve. Unite the union will support any member in these circumstances with legal advice and, if appropriate, representation, subject to the relevant rules.
If you have any questions connected with this letter or the wider issues, please contact your local steward.
I urge you to get involved in Unite the union’s continuing campaign as it is only through our collective strength that we can defend our terms and conditions.

Letter B – letter to employers who are not clearly offering re-engagement following dismissal on or after 9 January 2011
Member’s name and address:

Your employer’s name and address:


Dear Sir/Madam,


I refer to your letter of 12 December 2011. This letter should not be treated as either agreement to, or rejection of, your request that, by 9 January 2011, I confirm to you my agreement to my contract of employment being varied to the BESNA terms and conditions.

Before I can consider your request any further I need you to clarify your position by confirming by return whether, if I refuse your request, you intend to issue me with notice and offer me re-engagement on the BESNA terms and conditions.

I will then take further advice. I remind you that if you do not offer me re-engagement in such circumstances a claim of unfair dismissal is likely to have merit. If I am subsequently dismissed I will seek to recover from you my financial losses - including any caused by you dismissing me without giving me the opportunity to consider an offer of re-engagement. Any claim by me is likely to include a claim against the company of that my dismissal is automatic unfair dismissal due to my asserting a statutory right to take an unfair dismissal claim.

Yours sincerely


  1. Is it just me? or is the "then what" missing from the above from UNITE.
    Have they conceded that we are all f####d?
    Come on Unite, stop whimpering and DO something.

  2. I have been in this situation before ,the members must do the above as per employment law.

  3. This is appalling. The union simply caves in and kowtows to the idea that a question of basic class solidarity -direct wage cuts - can be fought as an individual dispute, like an insurance claim, in terms of the bosses' laws. The ONLY chance of getting the bosses to step back is by immediate walkouts of everyone on every site. Union boundaries are a barrier - the idea has to be quickly to spread solidarity action

  4. The bosses' class interests are directly oppossed to the class interest of the workers. One of the strongest weapons that our class has is the strike, withholding our labor power. The idea of immediate walkouts is a good one, but people must spread the idea far and wide and begin organizing for one.