CONSTRUCTION workers at Hinkley Point C have overwhelmingly rejected a renewed pay offer in the long-standing dispute over pay and bonuses on the project.

Industrial action is now likely after 95 per cent of staff rejected the new deal from EDF which was understood to be about a five per cent increase on their gross pay.

A worker at the power plant site, who did not want to be named, expects the same proportion of the workforce will support industrial action.

He said: “Considering it is the biggest project in Europe strike is an absolute catastrophe.

“This has been going on for too long now and the offer is totally unacceptable – EDF and the contractors have to take responsibility as it should not have come to this.”

Unions Unite and the GMB will now notify the companies concerned of their intention of holding an industrial action ballot.

Unite confirmed more than 95 per cent voted against the offer in a consultative ballot and members were told it was the best that could be achieved “through negotiations”.

The dispute, which has been ongoing since the spring, concerns the pay of workers engaged on civil engineering contracts at Hinkley Point which is the largest construction project in Europe. There are already over 1,000 workers employed on these contracts at the site.

Negotiations on the pay offer have involved EDF and the main contractor BYLOR (the principal contractor Laing O’Rourke and Bouygues TP) as well as the unions.

A 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 made.

One of the principal issues is that the pay rates for workers on civil engineering contracts are significantly below the rates of workers covered by the mechanical and engineering (M&E) contract.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “Members have made their views clear; the unions warned the amount of money being offered was not sufficient and this has 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.”

Phil Whitehurst, GMB national officer for construction, said: “The ballot result is a clear indication that the national officers of both GMB and Unite have to get back round the table with EDF as matter of urgency.

“We will be seeking meetings with EDF as soon as possible to solve this situation on behalf of our members.”