UNION leaders are confident of saving engineering construction's industrial relations agreement, thanks to Government plans for nuclear power station building.
Employers warned in March that the Naeci 'Blue Book' could be ripped up next year because they 'no longer believe it can provide a viable basis for employment relations beyond April 2007'.
But union chiefs are convinced the deal - which has kept the peace on steel, power and process sites for 25 years - has a future.
Amicus national construction officer Tom Hardacre said: 'The Government seems committed to nuclear power and the investment will be so huge they will need industrial relations stability on the labour side.
'The Naeci is the only way of guaranteeing that and we have an ongoing dialogue with the Government and have met with the Nuclear Development Authority.'
Amicus chiefs are in talks with employers at the Electrical Construction Industry Association and are hoping to confirm the long-term future of the Naeci agreement later this year.
The union is holding its sector conference this week in Scarborough, where it will be emphasising the importance of industrial relations agreements in engineering construction, electrical contracting, plumbing and heating and ventilation.
Assistant general secretary Les Bayliss said: 'These agreements are vital to best practice in the industry and that is the line we are pushing with the Government.
'This is a vital time for the construction sector with at least a decade of growth predicted and opportunities like the London Olympics.
'The Games can be a benchmark for the industry and we are discussing with the other unions and the Government how we can make sure they are a showcase for best practice.
'We have seen how proper industrial relations models can work on projects like T5.'
The conference will also discuss the proposed merger of Amicus, the GMB and the T&G to form a super-union of 2.5 million members with a 120,000 strong construction sector.
Mr Bayliss said: 'The merger talks are well on track and we will be looking to ballot our members by the end of this year then to progress things during the first quarter of next year.
'Construction is a key sector in the planned new organisation.'
Construction union Ucatt is not part of the planned merger but has been involved informally with the discussions.
The Yanks are coming
THE RACE to get involved in Britain's £70 billion nuclear decommissioning programme is hotting up as more US and domestic players join the fray.
Amec has confirmed it is concentrating on its partnership with Ch2mHill and UKAEA, which will make it a lead contender for major projects such as Sellaf ield.
A spokesman for the company said it was not holding talks with the latest firm to announce its interest in the UK market, Washington Group.
Other US firms such as Bechtel, Fluor and Halliburton are also known to be going for the clean-up work.
These companies will bid for tier one schemes, which involve complete management of the site and overseeing all the work.
Costain has confirmed it has been in talks with the Idaho-based Washington Group.
Costain Group business development director Stephen Wells said: 'The Americans have the expertise and we are talking to a host of firms at this stage. We don't yet know whether we will team up with one of the big companies and become a tier one competitor or whether we will bid for the tier two works such as building waste storage systems.
'The big one everyone is waiting for is Sellafield, which will not come up until 2009.'