pounds 2,000 bonus demand for Dome link deworkers demand bonus

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The Independent Online
ELECTRICIANS WORKING on the Jubilee Line extension are demanding a pay-off to finish the line in time for the opening of the Millennium Dome.

The payment, of up to pounds 2,000 each, would add up to pounds 1.2m to the construction bill for the project (the JLE) which is already millions of pounds over budget and 18 months behind schedule. The cost has soared from an original, budgeted pounds 1.8bn to more than pounds 3bn.

The demand is part of a redundancy settlement for workers, a common practice on any project with a final end-date. However, the issue is likely to be politically sensitive because of concern over the delays to the JLE.

The engineering union AEEU is negotiating the workers' terms with Drake & Scull, the main electrical contractor on the link. Both sides are furious at reports that the pay-offs could reach pounds 5,000 a person. A senior AEEU official said: "The union is in discussion with the company about the position of the men following completion of the project. But the figures being bandied around are way off the mark, very misleading and potentially damaging to industrial relations."

It is understood relations between managers and unions on the project are much improved since last year when a series of disputes culminated in a 10-day unofficial walkout by the electricians. At the time, London Underground made clear it was disappointed with the productivity levels.

A Jubilee Line spokeswoman said unions and Drake & Scull management had had discussions since Christmas. "They cover wide-ranging issues to improve productivity by electricians working for Drake & Scull on the JLE. These discussions reflect the JLE's concerns about the low level of productivity achieved on electrical installations."

Drake & Scull will discuss the settlement plan on Monday when the two sides meet to review a "peace plan" on industrial relations for the remaining months of the project.

The proposals are understood to include issues such as disciplinary action. They could include an independent audit of safety along the 11-mile route and an increase in the number of safety advisers.

The peace talks follow a series of walkouts over pay and safety issues. The 10-day stoppage was sparked by a decision to transfer a dozen electricians from London Bridge to Green Park.

The strikers said the men were being victimised because they pointed out deficiencies in a fire-alarm system at London Bridge. Management disputed the claim, saying that "bloody-mindedness", not health and safety, prompted the walkout.

The JLE project has suffered delays since work started in December 1993.

London Underground has put back the final opening date three times from March 1998 to October this year.

The first phase, from Stratford in the east to north Greenwich, the site of the Dome in south-east London, will now open at the end of April 1999; the second phase to Waterloo is scheduled to open at the end of August.

Almost half the country believes the Millennium Dome is a waste of money, according to a survey published yesterday.

The pounds 758m cost of the Greenwich landmark could be better spent on something else, according to almost half the people interviewed for a Mintel survey on how people plan to greet the millennium.

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