M&E workers on Heathrow Terminal 5 could be on strike within two weeks in a row over travelling pay for local workers, it emerged this week

Contractors, unions and workers were expected to hold showdown talks on Thursday at the Renaissance Hotel near the site in a bid to solve the dispute.

Amicus is demanding that local workers receive an extra £25 day for their travelling time to the site so that they have parity with a deal negotiated by building and civils workers on the project.

BAA will be reluctant to back down as terms and conditions have long since been agreed for the site. A BAA statement reiterated: “The travel allowance has been negotiated and agreed under the terms of the Major Projects Agreement.”

However, the airport operator needs to attract a greater amount of labour to the site. Building understands that M&E firms Crownhouse, Balfour Kilpatrick and Amec are struggling to recruit local workers for the project and are considering bringing in more workers who travel to site and stay in lodgings nearby.

The cost of recruiting the travelling workers, however, is significantly higher than employing local workers, even taking the union’s travel pay demands into account. It currently costs nearly £200 a week to put workers in lodgings and, under the MPA for the site, they are entitled to be paid their fare home twice a month, regardless of where they live.

The M&E sector will not be seen as a second-class citizen

Senior source at Terminal 5 site

A senior site source said: “The big problem that confronts this issue is that building and civils workers receive travel pay for local workers. The M&E sector will not be seen to be a second-class citizen. The feeling is that if you pay for local workers’ travel then you will be able to recruit more of them.”

The source added that the alternative is to recruit travelling workers, which costs a lot more money and is subject to widespread abuse. He said: “Imagine, it’s an easy con – you get four lads all coming down from Scotland or the North in one car overnight, but each claiming pounds and pounds in travel expenses.”

The source added that it was likely to take 14 days for the unions’ dispute procedures to take effect but that it was likely that it would end in failure and that the workers would be balloted.

BAA said: “There is a 380-strong M&E workforce at T5, which will rise to about 1000 by the end of the year. From the outset we have worked closely with contractors in planning T5’s resourcing requirements to attract a qualified workforce in a competitive environment. This includes a combination of local labour and workers from other parts of the country. About 65% of our M&E workforce is made up of local labour.”