Increase turned down by 95% of workers engaged on civil engineering contracts

Construction on the £20bn Hinkley Point nuclear power station could be held up after trade unions for construction staff working on the project announced a ballot for strike action over a pay dispute.

An improved pay package was turned down by 95% of workers voting against the proposals in a consultative ballot. They were told the rejected offer was the best that could be achieved “through negotiations”.

Unions Unite and the GMB will now proceed with notifying the main contractor BYLOR (the principal contractor Laing O’Rourke and Bouygues TP) of their intention to hold an industrial action ballot before progressing to ballot members for strike action.

Unite said one of the principal issues was that pay rates for workers on civil engineering contracts were significantly below the rates of workers covered by the mechanical and engineering contract.

The dispute concerns the pay of 1,000 workers engaged on civil engineering contracts at Hinkley Point. Negotiations involved the client EDF and the BYLOR, as well as the unions.

A previous ballot for strike action was called off in June after an interim agreement on bonus payments was agreed. The three-month agreement was extended into September in the hope that a permanent deal could be agreed.

Jerry Swain, national officer for construction at Unite, said the unions had warned the amount of money being offered was not sufficient and this had now proved to be the case.

“The client and contractors need to understand that this is a high profile, complex project, built in a tightly controlled secure zone, which is being built in an isolated part of the UK. It cannot and will not be built on the cheap.

“For too long the construction industry has treated workers on civil engineering projects as the poor relations and these attitudes are no longer acceptable. The employers have set the benchmark with the mechanical and engineering agreement they need to come forward with an offer that meets our members’ expectations.

 “There is a window between now and the commencement of any industrial action to still resolve this dispute, provided the client and the contractors come back with an improved offer. The unions are fully prepared to return to the negotiating table if an improved offer is put forward,” he added.