Ambitious plans to win trail-blazing pay deals for M&E workers were dealt a blow this week when Paul Corby quit as Amicus’ national construction secretary

Corby, who brokered the Heathrow Terminal 5 pay deal for electricians, has accepted a redundancy package and will leave in the next few weeks. Jim Simms, his counterpart in the mechanical division, has also taken redundancy.

The departures come as speculation increased over the possibility of a merger between Amicus, the T&G and construction union UCATT. Building understands UCATT has joined the Warwick group of unions with close access to the Labour government, which already includes Amicus and the T&G. If this is true it may suggest that merger talks have progressed behind the scenes.

An Amicus spokesperson confirmed that Corby and Simms had taken redundancy. He said: “Paul is on sick leave, but will go within the next month or so. Jim has left. They have taken advantage of a generous voluntary redundancy scheme.”

The spokesperson said that a replacement for Corby would be found “within the next couple of weeks”. Regional officer Tom Hardacre has taken over the role on an interim basis.

The loss will jeopardise the M&E union’s chances of brokering similar pay deals to the T5 package, which was championed by Corby. Corby had been pushing for a wider “major projects deal” that would lead to premium conditions for workers across large projects. He was instrumental in persuading T5 client BAA to accept some of these measures on the Heathrow scheme.

Shaun Doherty, BAA’s organisational effectiveness director, said Corby had been the driving force behind the T5 deal.

He said: “Historically, the M&E workforce has been militant in its industrial relations activity, but through a partnership with Paul Corby we were able to achieve a deal.”

Sources close to Alan Ritchie, UCATT’s general secretary, suggest he could now be open to the possibility of a partnership if the merged union contained a dedicated construction division on lines similar to that enjoyed by the rural, agricultural and allied workers section within the T&G.

UCATT’s move to join the Warwick group will increase its influence with the government but also opens the door for closer collaboration between it and other unions.

Contractors this week expressed their concerns over a partnership between the unions, especially if Amicus were central to it.

One senior contractor said: “History has proved that when the Amicus membership is mobilised it can be very dangerous. Should it be a united force with UCATT and the T&G, the sector could be hit by ever increasing pay demands and militancy. The fear is that it could get out of hand and affect margins.”