Call comes after breakdown in talks between construction unions and Laing O’Rourke over workers’ pay.
Construction unions at the Heathrow Terminal 5 project have raised the stakes in talks with contractors by calling for a union official to be on site permanently.

The three unions involved believe that this is essential to ensure that day-to-day disputes on the £2.5bn scheme do not get out of hand.

UCATT general secretary George Brumwell said: “There is now a need for an on-site union official at T5 as it is one of the biggest construction projects in Europe and there will be ongoing problems for thousands of workers to look after.”

Brumwell added that union officials had experienced problems getting on to the site and that this underlined the need to have a permanent presence.

The talks were held between Laing O’Rourke and UCATT, the GMB and the T&G over an industrial relations package for the 300 workers building the terminal. They ended in stalemate after the two sides failed to reach agreement on a number of pay and conditions issues.

One of these is over payments to those who travel more than 50 miles to the site and the other is over an attendance allowance paid to those who work a full five-day week.

A union insider said Laing O’Rourke was the first contractor to have an industrial relations package negotiated for the site.

He said: “If a suitable agreement with Laing O’Rourke is not reached then it may set an awkward precedent for other contractors to negotiate terms that are not realistic for the unions to agree to.”

The insider added that Laing O’Rourke is now in the process of drawing up a contract for its workers and was looking to press ahead, regardless of union concerns.

Under the attendance allowance scheme, Laing O’Rourke pays workers an extra day’s wages if they work five full days during the week. Union officials are in dispute with Laing O’Rourke over its insistence that it will not pay the attendance allowance to anyone who inadvertently fails to reach that target by more than half a day.

The two sides are also in dispute over “lodge allowance” payments. The unions say Laing O’Rourke will not agree to pay an allowance of up to £70 a week for workers who travel outside a radius of 50 miles from the site.

Laing O’Rourke refused to comment.