The action will be supported by electricians from the £220m refurbishment of the Royal Opera House. Workers from the two projects held a meeting to co-ordinate action on Tuesday.
Both groups are dissatisfied with an offer of a 26% pay rise over two years because it involves the loss of other benefits, including a reduction in travel allowances and the end of double-time payments for Saturday afternoon working.
An opera house electrician said: “Two major jobs like this still need to be completed this year and that gives us weight.”
A JLE electrician said: “The national deal is rubbish because it improves our pay by next to nothing by the time they’ve clawed back travel and overtime rates. When you consider the boom going on, it means we’re being short changed. If it takes another walk-out to get it changed, we’ll do it.”
Although most of the JLE is due to open by the end of the month, electrical installation work is still continuing. Strike action could delay the opening further.
Electricians succeeded in forcing their union to renegotiate the previous national agreement with the Joint Industry Board after a series of one-day strikes in 1997.
However, AEEU national officer Paul Corby, who is directly involved in the negotiations, said: “Nothing has been finalised and the union members will have their say when we ballot. Why anyone wants to talk about taking strike action I don’t know. The general secretary has said he is not happy about aspects of the agreement, and we have asked the ECA [Electrical Contractors Association] for clarification on a number of points. We are concerned about the level of clawback.
“If the offer is rejected, we could well ballot for industrial action but nothing will be done over the members’ heads.”
US troubleshooter Bechtel, which stands to lose a significant bonus if the JLE fails to meet its millennium deadline, declined to comment on what it described as “speculation”.
The threatened industrial action comes as Royal Opera House electricians have agreed an overtime deal that guarantees them an extra £270 a week. This takes their weekly earnings to more than £1000.
The deal was finalised as m&e contractor Balfour Kilpatrick moved an additional 20 electricians on to the project in an attempt to complete all the remaining M&E work before its critical deadline of 1 December. A spokesman for Balfour Kilpatrick confirmed the details of the deal. He said the extra workers had been brought in to replace others who had left.