Unions representing construction workers are to begin lodging claims with employers seeking pay increases and say they will also consult members on possible industrial action.

Workers in the sector received a 2.8% pay increase in February, but unions say that the value of this has been significantly eroded by the rising cost of living.

Another 2.8% increase is due in February next year under the Construction Sectoral Employment Order, but unions claim this falls significantly short of the current inflation rate.

"Our members are seeking what workers across the private and public sector have already received in the form of pay increases and other benefits in order to compensate for inflation," said John Regan, Secretary of ICTU's Construction Industrial Committee (CIC).

Unions say they had an "unproductive meeting" with employer representatives at the Construction Industry Federation on Wednesday, during which they were told that the best place to deal with the pay claim would be through a new application of the Sectoral Employment Order.

"The CIC will commence lodging claims with employers while also consulting with members on possible responses up to, and including, industrial action," Mr Regan said.

"We will always retain the right to have an official dispute with any company that is not meaningfully engaging on the pay and conditions of construction workers," he added.

The CIC includes representatives of the trade unions, SIPTU, OPATSI, UNITE, BATU and Connect.

A spokesperson for the Construction Industry Federation said that pay and conditions of employment in the industry are provided for in the Sectoral Employment Order.

"The unions have advised, however, that they intend to apply to the Labour Court next week to amend the terms of the SEO to take account of cost-of-living pressures," the spokesperson said.

"CIF believe this is the correct process for addressing the unions' concerns."

It cautioned against the unions pursuing claims against individual employers while at the same time pursuing claims against these same employers on a collective basis.

There are long-established mechanisms in the industry for addressing claims, which should be used on this occasion."