The main pay deal governing the engineering sector is under threat after steelworkers on Heathrow Terminal 5 won their long struggle to secure a £1-an-hour bonus.
The increase was awarded to steelworkers in arbitration on Friday after a lengthy dispute between Amicus, which represents the workers, client BAA and its contractors.
The ruling breaches the terms of the engineering “blue book” pay deal, raising employers’ fears that the bonus will set a precedent for similar demands on other sites.
In their submission to the arbitrator, seen by Building, BAA, steel employer Watsons and its subcontractors argued that granting the claim would damage the blue book agreement. They emphasised that departure from the agreement at T5 would have repercussions at the national level.
BAA attacked the Engineering Construction Industry Association, which oversees the blue book deal, for failing to participate in negotiations on the increase, claiming this could have led to the demands being refused.
We remain of the position that it is an unjustified claim
A BAA spokesperson said: “We always believed that the appropriate route for this claim to be resolved was for the ECIA to refer the matter to the National Joint Council. Our expectation was that the NJC would have rejected it in full as it fell outside of the framework of their national agreement, the NAECI blue book.
“We were unable to access the industry dispute resolution apparatus contained within the NAECI agreement because the ECIA refused to countenance the claim and participate in any process to consider it. We remain of the position that it is an unjustified claim but having agreed to arbitration, T5 will honour the ruling.”
The award will also fuel rising unrest among other sectors on the T5 site, particularly civils workers. The GMB, UCATT and the T&G are balloting workers over strike action to achieve a pay increase in line with the £1-an-hour awarded to site electricians earlier in the year.
The ECIA declined to comment.