The row has erupted over proposals to introduce a new grade of electrical operative at the massive Hinkley Point C construction site.
Client EDF and the MEH Alliance of Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey is looking to introduce training courses for ‘Electrical Support Operatives’.
The courses would teach apprentices to eventually support qualified electricians to install cable trays and ladders and help pull cables.
But is has sparked fury among electricians who see the move as another attempt to “deskill” the industry and save money.
One said: “Every few years they try and bring this grade in with the aim of getting work done by others to save money and deskill the industry.”
The last attempt to change pay grades in the sector was the ‘BESNA’ reforms in 2011 which were abandoned by employers following a concerted protest campaign by workers.
On Wednesday morning angry electricians staged their first public protest with a demonstration outside EDF offices.
An EDF spokesperson said: “Hinkley Point C and its trades union partners have agreements in place to develop UK skills and training, including a commitment to create 1,000 new apprenticeships .
“This progressive approach has been developed to maximise employment opportunities for local people and to help them develop new skills.
“It is backed by a major investment in training facilities to help new entrants start their careers in construction.
“Productive talks are now taking place to reach agreement on the curriculum of the new training courses.”
Union officials at Unite are due to meet on Friday to discuss the situation.
National officer for construction Ian Woodland said: “We have worked constructively with the client to resolve any issues and this matter is now correctly being dealt with via the mechanism that exists within the agreements covering the Hinkley Point project.”