Drivers using the M25 face 'Highway to Hell' journeys this spring as workers employed by the joint venture company Connect Plus Services, who provide maintenance and undertake emergency responses on the motorway, ballot for industrial action over pay.

The warning comes from the union Unite, which said today (8 March) that if strike action goes ahead the M25 will see increased traffic jams and prolonged delays.

More than 150 workers employed by Connect Plus Services have rejected a pay offer of 5.3%.

Unite has condemned the offer as a” sizeable real terms pay cut”, pointing to the real inflation rate (RPI) which currently standing at 13.4%.

 The ballot for industrial action opens on Monday 13 March and closes on Friday 31 March. If members vote for strike action stoppages could begin as early as mid-April.

 Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members perform an essential role in keep the M25 moving. It is completely unacceptable that Connect Plus is trying to force through a real terms pay cut.

“The company needs to realise its actions are unreasonable and return to the negotiating table with a vastly improved pay offer.

“Unite is now entirely focused on the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and the workers at Connect Plus Services will receive the union’s complete support.”

The workers undertake general maintenance duties, install and maintain traffic management systems during repair work and liaise closely with National Highways traffic officers.

 They are also responsible for all elements of emergency repair work on the motorway, including at accident sites, barrier repairs, dealing with floods and melting tarmac and winter maintenance contracts including  gritting.

Unite said the workforce is paid “as little as £13 an hour”. Most of them hold a HGV licence in order to use the heavy plant vehicles needed for their roles.

Unite regional officer Malcolm Bonnett said: “Strike action will inevitably cause severe delays and disruption on the M25 and turn it into a 'Highway to Hell'.

“But this dispute is entirely of Connect Plus Services’ own making. It has been given every opportunity to make a fair pay offer but has refused to do so.”

 Connect Plus Services is a joint venture company operated by a partnership of Balfour Beatty, Egis and Aitkin.

A request for comment from the joint venture has yet to receive a response.