UNION leaders in the engineering construction sector are demanding a substantial increase in pay rates in the current review of the Naeci 'Blue Book' agreement.
Officials at Amicus, the GMB and the TGWU settled for an 8.7 per cent pay rise over two years when the deal was last revised in 2004.
Their latest submission is demanding a 'substantial increase in base rate with f low through to other allowances'.
The union claim does not put a figure on the workers' initial demands for a pay rise.
But one union source said: 'Things are pretty buoyant in the sector at the moment so there's no way we'll want to be seen to settle for less than last time.' Unions and employers sitting on the National Engineering Construction Committee are keen to avoid the negotiations ending up in a slanging match.
In 2004 the 20,000 strong engineering construction workforce was on the verge of a national strike following a breakdown in talks.
A source close to the negotiations said: 'In the past an initial pay claim has been put forward publicly then both sides argue the toss with claim and counterclaim.
'It looks like it might be a bit different this time with no one really talking about numbers until both sides have sat around the table and held initial discussions.' The existing deal runs out on April 5. Skilled operatives are currently paid a basic hourly rate of £12.26 on major jobs down to £7.33 for the lowest graded workers.
Tom Hardacre, who is leading the negotiations on behalf of Amicus, said: 'We have highlighted the events of the last review as we are hopeful that such disagreement can be avoided in this round, with a consensus being reached.' Among the unions' other demands are the establishment of a working group to examine the registration of the engineering construction workforce, consolidation of second-tier payments into the general base rate and a review of over time rates.
Employers at the Engineering Construction Industry Association declined to comment on the forthcoming talks.
n See feature, page 28