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Trades on engineering construction sites prepare to take wildcat action as pay negotiations drag on Blue Book strike threat

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UP TO 4,000 workers on engineering construction sites throughout the country threatened to down tools this week in protest at the slow progress being made in their industry pay talks.

The threat of a one-day wildcat strike came from the steel erectors, electricians, welders and other trades working under the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry - the so-called Blue Book.

The agreement covers both the new build and repair and maintenance of refineries, power stations and pharmaceutical plants.

This week angry site workers threatened to halt work on five of the biggest engin-eering construction projects in the country - at Grangemouth, Saltend, Sellafield, Damhead Creek and Coryton.

Both union leaders and employers have condemned the action.

Paul Corby, national officer of the electrical and engineering union AEEU, said: 'This is an unofficial action which we have to repudiate.

'There is no logic to it. The unfortunate thing is that it allows the hawks among the employers to hold sway.'

He added: 'I am determined to achieve a credible level of settlement.

'We have put up rates by 12 per cent in two years.

'It is beyond my power to redress the way earnings fell away in previous years.'

Brenig Williams, chief executive of the Engineering Construction Industry Association, also criticised the unofficial action but he added that some progress had been made on the negotiations during the week.

He said: 'This sort of unofficial action is not in the spirit or in the tradition of the Blue Book and we condemn it.'

Employers and unions have been in talks to negotiate the 2000 pay round for the past two months, but neither side is guessing when a deal will be struck.

Both sides will have to contend with rising pay expectations among many site workers.

The talks come weeks after 40,000 elect-ricians, working under their Joint Industry Board agreement, won a deal worth up to 30 per cent on top of their old rates.