PLANNED ACTION by steel erectors, pipe fitters and welders to hit construction work on high-profile sites for this week has been called off after employers rushed to negotiate a deal. The relatively small group of specialised workers were due to strike at Heathrow's Terminal 5 and Wembley Stadium in London as well as BP Grangemouth, BNG Sellafield and Novartis Grimsby.
The dispute affects 20,000 steel erectors, pipe fitters and welders who are covered by the industry's "blue book" or NAECI agreement, which dates from 1981. The dispute is about improving pay and allowances under the agreement, as workers covered by it have seen both decline compared with other groups.
In February the employers' Engineering Construction Industry Association put forward a "final deal", which it claimed amounted to 8 percent over two years. It said it could ride out any action called by the workers' unions-the GMB, Amicus and TGWU.
But some 60 stewards met on Wednesday of last week to discuss the action, which was due to start on Monday, followed by every Monday after at about 15 sites. They were also to start an overtime ban. This prospect meant the employers were suddenly eager for talks.
One union source told Socialist Worker, "Things look like they are moving in the right direction. These workers have been denied good wages for years. The money was always there. With Heathrow and Wembley going out it really forced the situation."
Details of what the negotiations between the unions and employers have achieved were due to be released this week.