WORKERS at Hanson Brick will be balloted on strike action following an overwhelming rejection of the company's latest pay and conditions offer.
A resounding 90 per cent of the firm's 1,200 craft and manual workforce voted against accepting a 2.7 per cent pay increase for the 2002/2003 period.
Staff are also furious over a decision by the company to renege on an agreement to give workers an extra day's holiday.
The company, which is the brick manufacturing division of materials giant Hanson, is the second largest brickmaker in the UK with one third of the market. It has 14 factories across England and Wales.
Union officials have warned that strike action could have serious knock-on effects throughout the industry as brick production grinds to a halt.
GMB official Alan Black said: 'Strike action will have an enormous impact on firms in the industry, particularly house builders, as they will be forced to source bricks elsewhere - pushing prices up.
'We were in touching distance of agreeing a deal but the shop stewards are incensed by the withdrawal of the extra day's holiday.
'I think the group decided not to allow Hanson Brick to increase the holiday allowance to 26 days because of fears that the three other UK operating divisions would want the same.'
The result of the ballot is expected to be known by the end of next month.
Hanson Brick reported a 12.5 per cent increase in trading profit to £14.4 million for the first six months of last year on turnover of £73 million.
Bob Blackman, construction secretary of transport union TGWU, said: 'We are very disappointed that after a period of growth the company has chosen not to reward the workers.'
A spokesman for Hanson Brick said:
'We believe that looking at the fragile position of the UK manufacturing market, an offer of 2.7 per cent, which is certainly in line with inflation, is more than reasonable. In regard to the extra day's holiday, this was not firmly offered to the workforce.'