Construction News

Sat September 21 2019

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HS2 pressed to open up union access

12 Sep The Trades Union Congress yesterday passed an emergency motion demanding that HS2 forces its contractors to open their doors to union access.

The motion was moved by the construction union Unite, which has been battling Costain Skanska Joint Venture (CSJV) for access to its workers on the HS2 project. Unite wants to be able to visit CJSV workers during their breaks at their HS2 site in Euston to recruit them but it has not been allowed in.

CSJV says that it has already offered Unite access tot eh workforce but the union jas not taken it up.

Moving the motion at the TUC’s annual congress, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Costain and Skanska’s reasoning for barring Unite is both disingenuous and sinister saying that workers need to ‘decompress’ after being involved in the removal of centuries old skeletons on the site.

“If workers are traumatised this is when they most need their union. And the workers tell us they want us on the inside. Shame on you Costain and Skanska for using the dead to justify your union busting.”

In 2016 HS2 signed an initial framework agreement (IFA) with the TUC and unions that was is designed to underpin good employment practices on the project, including allowing officials on site to speak and recruit workers during their breaks.

Gail Cartmail said: “HS2 is the client. HS2 has the power. HS2 controls the purse strings. HS2 can demand all contractors follow the framework agreement signed by the TUC and HS2 – a good agreement that should underpin union access and workers’ rights.”

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Unite believes that lack of union access on some Crossrail sites was a contributory factor to employment problems encountered on that project, including allegations of bullying and blacklisting. It argues that union access is an aid to productivity and harmony.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has committed the next Labour government to introducing new laws to allow unions access to workplaces.

HS2 has said in the past that its agreement with the TUC demonstrates its commitment to working with the trade unions, but this applies only to direct employees. Relationships that its contractors have with their workforce, and whether this involves trade unions, is a separate matter – and one in which it does not get involved, HS2 says.  

A CSjv spokesperson said: “We have offered Unite access to our Euston site, which exceeds levels usually seen across the industry. They have not taken up this offer. This would enable Unite to meet with all our operatives at inductions, work site and our welfare area outside break times. Our offer to Unite remains open.”

He added: “There are no activities on site that require workers to 'decompress' after their shift.”

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