… but employers offer 10% as the latest round of the national minimum wage agreement gets under way.
Construction unions have called for a 64% increase in minimum wage rates for site workers between now and 2006.

The demand is the unions’ opening shot in talks to agree a three-year deal with the Construction Confederation. If granted, it would lead to bricklayers’ pay rising from £7.30 an hour to £12.

The confederation rejected the demand and opened the bidding with an offer of 10.3%.

George Brumwell, general secretary of UCATT, said the employers’ offer flew in the face of what skilled craftsmen and other grades could obtain on a day-to-day basis and he called for a more realistic attitude over pay.

He said: “The 64% pay increase does sound a bit cloud nine-ish but we are trying to change the tone of the agreement so it contains realistic market rates that are reflected in the industry.”

He said the offer from the employers, made at a meeting of the Construction Industry Joint Council, which decides national pay rates, was designed simply to keep pace with inflation.

He added that if talks broke down, one course of action would be to negotiate with employers annually rather than every three years.

The present deal, which was negotiated by UCATT, GMB and the T&G, ends in June and the meeting on Monday was the first round of talks to agree a deal that would begin in July.

Jerry Lean, the Construction Confederation’s industrial relations director, said the wage agreement had to reflect national rates rather than London ones.

He said: “It has to be understood that the figures are a minimum for the whole of the country.”

UCATT delegates passed a resolution at their annual conference last year calling for the 64% increase. A union insider said: “The 64% bid is the union’s best-case scenario. The leadership has to be seen to take this demand

on board after the decision at the conference.

But of course, in the real world, a deal will be struck. It’s just a question of how far the employers will go.”

A fair day’s pay?

Craft: £7.30 an hour for trades such as bricklayer and painters.

General operative: £5.49 an hour.

For skill grades such as concrete mixer operators:

Skill rate 4 £5.91 an hour

Skill rate 3 £6.27 an hour

Skill rate 2 £6.70 an hour

Skill rate 1 £6.95 an hour