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Industrial relations in jeopardy on Crossrail

25 Sep 12 Allegations of trade union victimisation are surfacing on the Crossrail project, with health & safety whistleblowers being moved off the job, it is claimed.

The Unite union is calling for urgent talks with the Crossrail client organisation to address its claims and pursue its campaign for direct employment on what is the largest construction project in Europe.

Unite wants an agreement delivering direct employment under the terms of the relevant existing national agreements. It is concerned that the widespread use of self-employed contractors undermines safety on the project.

Direct employment under nationally recognised agreements would also provide the union shop stewards a structure to raise issues such as health and safety without any fear of discrimination.  

Unite has highlighted two separate cases at Westbourne Park in west London and Chatham where companies completing work for Crossrail have adopted what it describes as ‘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,” Mr Passfield claimed.

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“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 cancels 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 need 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 over the next few years."

Elsewhere on the project, Unite is also concerned about a tunnel segment plant at Chatham Docks. Fifteen of its members working on prefabricated tunnel segments for DSJV are being laid off at the end of this week (28 September). It claims that agency Cheema Group wants to drive down wages. The union plans a meeting at Chatham docks at 6pm on Thursday, 27 September for members to air their concerns about what is happening on the particular project.

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