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T5 sparks' win threatens chaos

Ruling in favour of Heathrow electricians over travel allowances sends BAA 'ballistic'

THE FUTURE of the Major Projects Agreement at Heathrow's T5 hangs by a thread after electricians on the job won a landmark dispute hearing last week.

An MPA dispute panel made up of three employers and three union representatives staged a seven-hour meeting last week to discuss the workers' claims for extra travelling allowances. Client BAA was left reeling when the panel ruled that the sparks are entitled to compensation for travelling time to and around the job.

Leaders of electrical union Amicus were due to hear the offer from employers yesterday (Wednesday), which they plan to put to 500 workers at a mass site meeting today.

The M&E operatives are upset because Laing O'Rourke building and civil engineering workers at T5 receive a £25-a-day travelling allowance under a separate deal.

It is understood that the M&E employers are only prepared to offer between £7 and £9 an hour - a figure workers are likely to reject.BAA is also understood to be unwilling to foot the bill for any extra allowances.

A source close to the talks said: 'No one can believe the panel came down in favour of the lads.BAA is going ballistic and this could threaten the whole future of the MPA on the job.'

One site source said: 'They have got to get near £25 an hour. If they make a lower offer and the lads reject it then that could spell the end of the MPA. It could also be ripped up if the employers refuse to pay up.

'If the MPA is ripped up then we are back to a local agreement which will cause chaos.'

The dispute hearing consisted of Amicus on one side opposite two representatives of electrical firms not working at T5 and an official of the Electrical Contractors Association.

One source said: 'It was the ECA driving in the union's favour because they are desperate to keep the MPA alive - if it fails at T5 no one else in the country is ever going to touch it again.'

The ECA declined to comment. A BAA spokesman said: 'We are surprised at the outcome of last week's meeting.

We expect to receive further information later this week.'

grant. prior@construct. emap. com