EMPLOYERS have offered a pay increase of less than 10 per cent over the next three years during the opening round of industry wage talks covering more than 600,000 building and civils workers.
The offer leaves both sides poles apart after the construction unions submitted their initial demand for a 66 per cent increase in basic rates.
Employers from the Construction Confederation met with the unions ? Ucatt, T&G and GMB ? under the umbrella of the Construction Industry Joint Council last week.
The unions want to see craft rates increased from the current £9 an hour to £15 ? a rise of 66 per cent.
But contractors are holding firm and have offered a 9.4 per cent rise over the next three years.
An employers' source said: 'The last few deals have been fairly bullish, with increases around the 20 per cent mark over three years. But things have slowed down a bit now and we are not in that league any more. We are prepared to go above inf lation and are prepared to negotiate but the unions must realise life has changed.' The current pay deal runs out in June and has been in force for three years.
Union leaders are believed to be considering a shorter-term deal of one or two years unless the contractors improve their offer.
The employer source said: 'They are talking about a one-year deal. We don't really care how long it is.' The unions are also seeking a whole suite of improvements including better bonuses and shift working allowances, a shorter working week and a shake-up in apprentice pay rates.
Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie is leading the negotiations for the union side. He said: 'The industry has to make a choice. We want a skilled workforce with decent rates of pay, a career structure and protection in old age.
'The industry should show that it values building workers by significantly increasing pay, establishing a gold standard apprentice scheme and paying a decent pension.'