Contractors are predicting a crisis in the M&E sector in the wake of last week’s £55,000 pay deal for craftsmen working for Laing O’Rourke at Heathrow Terminal 5.

The agreement has led to predictions that electricians on the £2.6bn terminal would respond by asking for as much as £75,000. Amicus, the electricians’ union, is in talks to finalise a national agreement for large projects.

One major contractor said: “I think the deal is crazy. It will have a knock-on effect on key sites, especially on hospitals, which have big M&E packages.”

The contractor said that if electricians agreed a correspondingly generous package at T5, it would force up wages on other large sites across the country.

One M&E contractor agreed: “It’s going to have a great impact. It’s hard enough to get direct skilled labour at the moment. A lot of the skilled workforce are going to chase the money at T5.”

Another M&E contractor added: “If you are talking about 5000 workers needed on T5, the law of supply and demand comes into play. It’s bound to draw people in.”

Key industry figures were split as to the benefits to the industry from the deal. Richard Clare, chairman at quantity surveyor EC Harris, praised the deal but said it should have strict conditions.

Clare said: “It’s marvellous for the industry, but it’s not just a headline figure. If you pay professional salaries to these people you should link it to improved productivity and quality.”

One major contractor, however, slammed the deal. He said: “I thinks it’s over the top. Everyone in the sector is trying to be more efficient in the wake of Egan, but this will just spiral costs.”

The deal, struck between construction unions UCATT, GMB and T&G and Laing O’Rourke, sparked national interest after Building revealed the terms last week.

Building has been inundated with calls from workers hoping to get jobs on the scheme. Among them were a surveyor from the Heathrow area, an electrician from Torquay and an IT consultant from London. The IT consultant said: “There is no way I could earn that much in my sector. There’s a bunch of us in this office who are looking to switch to construction.”