Saturday, 13 October 2012

Unite: anti-union claims flare up

UNITE, the country’s largest union, is calling for urgent talks with Crossrail to thrash out claims that trade union victimisation has taken place and an anti-union bias exists across the project.

Unite has been seeking a project agreement for over a year from Crossrail - which could benefit the thousands of workers employed on the largest construction project in Europe – but to no avail.

Unite wants an agreement delivering direct employment under the terms of the relevant existing national agreements - this would mean workers engaged on the cross London rail project being directly employed and the full terms of recognised construction agreements applied, where applicable.

There is a concern that 'self employment' practices are prevalent and undermining the safety of the project going forward.

Such a deal would also provide the recognised construction union shop stewards a structure to raise issues such as health and safety (H&S) without any fear of being discriminated.

Unite has highlighted two separate cases at Westbourne Park in west London and Chatham where companies completing work for Crossrail have adopted aggressive anti-union tactics.

Deputy regional secretary for Unite’s London & Eastern region, Vince Passfield, said:
'Unite at a Crossrail site at Westbourne Park successfully organised the workforce and appointed a site steward and H&S rep for Eis Ltd, which is a contractor working under BFK (Bam-Ferrovial-Kiers).  Having raised serious H&S concerns, the H&S rep was himself unnecessarily suspended on a minor infringement and five weeks later transferred off site.

'Two workers, who took photos of serious H&S concerns and raised them with management, were also transferred off site under the instruction of BFK.  The shop steward then raised further concerns and was then isolated from other workers.  Unite raised these concerns direct with Crossrail. Two weeks later BFK cancelled the Eis Ltd contract (which was previously extended to September 2013) citing that the work was now complete. This action effectively dismissed 28 workers without good reason.

'Unite has serious concerns about the underlying motives of BFK and Crossrail for allowing such suspicion to be present.  We are urgently seeking a resolution to re-engage the dismissed workers. However, if our suspicions and concerns are confirmed with regard to trade union victimisation, then Crossrail needs to be warned that this union will not tolerate our members or, in particular, our representatives, suffering any form of victimisation or discrimination.  Unless a suitable resolution is reached it could be a long hard winter for Crossrail and, indeed, we fear for the industrial relations stability of the project.'

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