Unite’s accord with Align is in the Chilterns is in contrast to its continuing impasse with the Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture, which is working on HS2 in London.
An access agreement has been signed between the union and Align, a joint venture of Bouygues, Sir Robert McAlpine and Volker Fitzpatrick.
Unite construction officials can now visit the canteens and welfare facilities on Align sites and speak to workers during their breaks, both to promote union membership and to help with any concerns workers may have.
Align has a £1.6bn (Apr2020) contract to build the 10-mile Chiltern tunnels and the two-mile Colne Valley viaduct to the northwest of London.
The access agreement is the second to be formally signed on the HS2 project, following confirmation in June that Unite will have access to the workforce on the new Euston station development, which is being built by Mace Dragados.
Further access agreements to other sections of the HS2 development are under negotiation.
Unite said that these accords are in contrast to its continuing argument with Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture (SCS), which is responsible for the tunnelling and track work from Euston to the outskirts of London.
Unite says that SCS has refused it access to its workforce. SCS disputes this, saying that it is only the canteen that is out-of-bounds for union activities, so that workers have the opportunity to enjoy their breaks in peace. It has offered Unite its own meeting room on site, it says, but the offer has not been accepted. According to Unite, this is not ‘meaningful’ access and amounts to ‘union busting’ activity. [See our previous report here.]
Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said of the Align deal: “This is an important agreement and will ensure that thousands of workers on this section of the HS2 development will be able to freely meet and speak to Unite officials.
“It is pleasing to see that Align, unlike some other HS2 contractors, has demonstrated an enlightened approach to trade union access and Unite looks forward to working constructively with the joint-venture throughout the life of this project.
“Unite is entirely committed to ensuring that all sections of the current HS2 development reach similar agreements. We will not allow employers to refuse us access as part of a cynical policy of denying workers their rights and undermining national agreements.”