pounds 350-a-day men strike for more

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The Independent Online
ELECTRICIANS EARNING up to pounds 1,800 a week at some of the most high- profile construction sites in Britain, including the Royal Opera House, the Millennium Dome and the Jubilee Line extension, are to stage a walkout over pay tomorrow.

The 1,500 electricians are protesting over a deal negotiated by the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) which, according to officials, would yield nearly 20 per cent extra on basic rates over two years.

Leaders of the unofficial stoppage, who are expected to threaten more strike action, claim that as they receive no pension benefits, skilled construction workers need to earn big money during boom times to make up for long periods of recession. They also say that the basic wage increase is at the expense of travel allowances and weekend overtime rates.

Perhaps the most vulnerable project to any wildcat strikes is the delayed Jubilee Line extension from central London to the Millennium Dome. London Underground is hoping to open services today on the stretch between Bermondsey and Waterloo, leaving the part between Westminster and Green Park to be opened in "late autumn". Stoppages could postpone the link, which is vital to the success of the Millennium Dome.

The news is embarrassing to Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the union, who has called for both sides of industry to agree deals to ensure a "strike-free Britain".

The leaders of tomorrow's action by electricians expect colleagues elsewhere in the UK to walk out as well. Official union sources believe, however, that the industrial action will largely be confined to workers at the opera house and the dome who earn up to pounds 1,200 a week, and others working on the Jubilee Line who receive nearly pounds 1,800.

Under the deal being negotiated by the union, basic hourly rates nationally would rise from pounds 7.42 to pounds 8.92 by the year 2001, but electricians on important sites in London are paid much more. Sources at the union contend that the demands made by the London electricians are unrealistic, in particular their call for every fourth week off on full pay.

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