Sparks want guaranteed payments for a 60-hour week but contractor insists on greater productivity
Management and electricians on the £220m redevelopment of the Royal Opera House were this week negotiating a major new bonus package.

Electricians want M&E contractor Balfour Kilpatrick to increase payments and improve facilities, but Balfour Kilpatrick insists that changes to working practices must be tied to greater productivity.

Peter Rogers, a director of opera house project manager Stanhope, said: “We have had discussions with all the people on the site over how to get the project finished as efficiently as possible.

“Our intention is to try to make sure the electricians can earn a proper bonus. There are elements all cross-linked to this. A problem with the current system is that it has been difficult for electricians to get to some areas to get a clear run at them.

“Even when some of them have got access to a room, there is still the problem of getting at the areas in it you need to. It will be a conventional bonus structure with tangible rewards. If it works, everyone on the project will benefit.” Rogers said he was optimistic that the opera house would be built in time to open on 1 December.

Electricians want Balfour Kilpatrick to introduce a guaranteed bonus, enabling them to earn the equivalent of a 60-hour week for working 50 hours.

One electrician said: “No one has been able to earn more than three to five hours’ bonus per week here because the work is not opening up quickly enough. We’ve had enough and want the situation rectified.” Another electrician said: “Hopefully, a deal will be agreed before the end of the week. If not, productivity here will be badly affected.” Workers are also still unhappy about welfare facilities.

A Balfour Kilpatrick spokeswoman said: “We are optimistic that the discussions, which will continue over the next few days, will result in a positive outcome for all parties.” Meanwhile, Jubilee Line Extension civils workers at Westminster are demanding a payout similar to the one offered to JLE electricians. They approached a Balfour Beatty/Amec joint venture about this.

At a meeting last week, more than 100 workers called on construction union UCATT to begin talks with the company over a termination payment. A spokesperson for Balfour Beatty/Amec confirmed that it had been approached by the union but declined to comment further.