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Steel bonus strike ballot threatens T5 blue book

NEWS - Heathrow's T5 site faces unrest over £1 per hour bonus for steelworkers

INDUSTRIAL unrest is looming at Heathrow's Terminal 5 scheme after engineering union Amicus launched a strike ballot over bonuses last week.

The union has sent out papers to around 180 steelworkers on the project employed under the Naeci 'blue book' agreement after employers refused to grant an extra £1 an hour bonus.

But last week the Engineering Construction Industry Association ? guardians of the Naeci ? waded into the row accusing Amicus of undermining the agreement in a letter to the union's general secretary Derek Simpson.

The issue has simmered ever since Amicus electricians employed under the Major Projects Agreement gained a £1 an hour 'performance bonus' after dropping their demands for a travelling allowance.

But the £1 an hour granted to the MPA workers is seen on site as a travelling allowance and has angered other workers on the project.

One Amicus source said: 'Our lads get on the same bus as the MPA men and they get the money and we don't. The men aren't happy and this is not going to go away.

The steelworkers work for five companies including Watson Steel and Fast Track. The ballot closes on September 24, with possible industrial action in October including strikes and overtime bans. But the ECIA's managing director Michael Hockey has now called on Amicus to withdraw the ballot notice.

Mr Hockey told Mr Simpson: 'I understand the ballot might have been called in support of an aspiration for payments above and beyond those permitted under the Naeci.

'If this is the case, then the repercussions for the Naeci, its signatory parties and the wider UK engineering construction industry are extremely serious.

'Amicus will inevitably be seen as repudiating its obligations under the Naeci, including its undertaking not to seek 'further improvements in the rates, benefits or any other terms and conditions of the revised Naeci prior to April 2006'.' Around 740 Ucatt, TGWU and GMB members employed by Laing O'Rourke also held a consultative ballot in which 97 per cent of the civils and construction workers indicated support for industrial action.

The workers want an increase in the £2.08 'fall-back bonus' paid to staff by Laing O'Rourke, which has not increased for three years.