Prospect, which represents 1,750 inspectors, scientists and specialists in HSE, balloted its members on industrial action in February after HSE turned down their pay claims for 2003.
Members voted overwhelmingly in support of a one-day strike followed by a work to rule. However, the union remained committed to reaching a negotiated pay settlement if possible, and talks were held with conciliation service ACAS on 15 March. A second meeting with ACAS is scheduled for 23 March in Liverpool.
Prospect negotiator Richard Hardy said: "Although we are still a long way from a negotiated settlement, we believe the ACAS process needs to run its course, and it is important to have a further meeting. However, there is a limit to our members’ patience, and one more meeting is really enough.
"So we will go into the meeting with an open mind, but there has to be an end to the process somewhere. We will therefore issue notice of strike action prior to the meeting, and if we fail to achieve an acceptable settlement Prospect members will take industrial action on Monday 29 March 2004."