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Trade unions to meet employers over demands Push for minimum salaries to replace hourly rates Skills pay showdown

EMPLOYERS are set for a series of stormy meetings with construction unions to consider pay demands of £10 an hour for skilled workers.

The figure is part of the 'Millennium Partnership Claim' and represents a 66 per cent hike on the current rate of £6.05 an hour.

Construction union Ucatt, transport union TGWU and general union GMB are also pushing for salaries to replace hourly rates, with a minimum set at £20,280 a year for craft operatives.

The unions are now waiting for an initial response from the Construction Confederation and a timetable for meetings.

Ucatt general secretary George Brumwell said: 'The time is right for the industry to recognise the need to reward its workers in a way that reflects the level of skills and commitment needed to improve and maintain standards.'

An agreement must be in place by June when the current deal covering 800,000 construction workers runs out.

TGWU national construction secretary Bob Blackman said: 'We need to start talking quickly because of the tight time-table and the fact that there is bound to be a lively debate about the claim. Our claim just reflects realistic pay levels on site and is designed to make the pay and conditions deal more relevant.'

The employers are expected to push for a three-year deal with rates rising to a £10-an-hour maximum in the final year.

A final pay offer from employers in the engineering construction sector will be put to 25,000 workers during the next two weeks.

The offer was presented to officials from electrical and engineering union AEEU on Monday. It is understood to raise basic hourly pay by 4- 6 per cent.

Other components of the 15-month deal are believed to include a London weighting allowance for workers within the M25.

But the deal is expected to receive a lukewarm reception from the workforce. A source close to the negotiations said: 'They have seen pay rises in other areas and are keen to get a big jump this year.'