UNIONS and employers in theengineering construction industry are unlikely to reach agreement on the 2000 pay round until next year.
It is the first time in recent years that the industry's Blue Book talks have not been concluded before the Christmas break.
But employer sources are confident that a deal can be struck early next year, despite last week's unofficial stoppages on several high-profile sites throughout the country.
One said: 'I think we are nearing a conclusion and some progress has been made but,because we are approaching Christmas, I don't think the unions will have time for their consultative exercise until the New Year.'
Paul Corby, national officer of the AEEU electrical and engineering union, said: 'We are still awaiting a formal offer from the employers. We will have further meetings before Christmas but the ball is now in their court.'
The Blue Book - officially known as the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry - covers about 25,000 workers. Steel erectors in London covered by the agreement have set up their own shop stewards' committee and joined the stoppages last week.
'They want to see their wages increased by a London weighting allowance,' said one erector.