Building and civils operatives are about to enjoy a 14.5% rise over three years - but it's not quite the 60% they had in mind … Plus the latest labour rates for plumbers and more

Executive summary

New wage awards are about to come into force for building and civil engineering operatives and for plumbers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. After a negotiating position that reportedly started at 60% over three years, the unions negotiating for the principal wage agreement settled on a 14.5% rise over three years. They failed to negotiate any reduction in normal working hours or additional holiday entitlement.

Wage settlements so far this year have provided relatively modest increases for the most part:


Plumbers (England and Wales) +3.5%
Electricians +4.5%


Local authority craft employees +2.95%
Engineering construction (steel erectors) +3.5%


Plumbers (Scotland and Northern Ireland) +3.1%
Builders (BATJIC) +4.6%
Builders and civil engineering operatives (CIJC) +3.5%

The three-year wage agreement for heating and ventilating operatives expires on 2 October 2006 and negotiations between employers' and employees' representative bodies have just begun.

Most of these agreements sit poorly against current levels of average earnings in the UK, despite the continuing strong performance of the industry:

Average earnings (excluding bonuses), March 2005 to March 2006

Manufacturing +4.6%
Service industries +3.6%

The industry wage agreements effectively represent minimum levels of earnings, which will be topped up with bonuses and incentive payments, in competition with wages achieved by the self-employed and agencies.

Plumbers and building and civil engineering operatives


Plumbers in England and Wales received a 3.5% increase in wage rates from 2 January. Wage rates for their colleagues in Scotland and Northern Ireland increased from Monday 5 June but the main grades went up only 3.1%, leaving an advanced plumber on £11.16 per hour compared with £11.20 in the South. The technician and plumber rates are similarly a few pence lower than their English counterparts.

Building and civil engineering operatives

This month there will also be revised wages for building and civil engineering operatives under both the CIJC and BATJIC agreements:

BATJIC agreement - from 12 June 2006 

The BATJIC agreement for operatives working for small and medium-sized building firms belonging to the Federation of Master Builders gives operatives an increase in their standard rates of wages of 4.5 to 4.7%. (See table: "BATJIC new wage rates")

CIJC agreement - from 26 June 2006 A new three-year agreement comes into force from 26 June.

The deal provides for a 14.5% increase in basic pay rates by June 2008 but for only a 3.5% rise this year. (See table: "CIJC new wage rates")

Skilled operative additional rates payable up to £1.40 per hour for drivers of larger excavators and mobile cranes are no longer available.

Apprentices will receive a similar 3.5% uplift.

Daily travelling allowances have risen 3.5% but fare allowances have risen by varying amounts between 1.5% and 12.6%, depending on distance.

The minimum employer contribution into an operative's personal stakeholder pension will now become £3 per week (up from £2.50), though the maximum obligation will remain at £10 per week.