Workers in the insurance industry are set to gain improved bargaining power as Amicus and Unifi, the two unions representing insurance workers in the UK, are on track to merge by mid-2004.

The deal will create the largest union in Europe.

Amicus national secretary for the finance sector David Fleming said: "If agreement is reached the finance sector will be able to speak with one voice, to be the major stakeholder in the UK and Ireland.

"We will be able to have an enhanced role in changing the political and industrial landscape of the UK for our members."

A successful conclusion of negotiations between the unions means the merger should be decided in spring next year.

A series of meetings of Unifi representatives will be followed by a ballot of all 160,000 members. A vote in favour of the merger will then see a 'transfer of engagements' from Unifi to Amicus some time around June.

The enlarged union will represent about 70,000 people in the insurance industry out of a total membership of over a million.