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Laing O’Rourke union fight gets volatile

1 Dec 16 Laing O’Rourke and construction union Ucatt appear to be at daggers drawn in Dumfries.

Ucatt protestors outside the site last month
Ucatt protestors outside the site last month

The two parties are at loggerheads over the extent of union access that Laing O’Rourke is permitting to its £212m Dumfries hospital project.

Ucatt regional secretary Steve Dillon met Trevor Donoghue, Laing O’Rourke’s industrial relations manager, to resolve issues. Mr Dillon described the meeting as “short, sharp and volatile”.

He says he was told that the only access Laing O’Rourke was prepared to provide was that union officials could speak at some inductions, with management in attendance, and then hand over any literature to the company for distribution.

However, Ucatt wants free access to speak privately to workers in canteens and rest areas, away from management. Mr Dillon was told this was not going to happen, he says.

Mr Dillon says that the contractor’s suppression of union activities represented “backdoor blacklisting”.

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He said: “Laing O’Rourke have learned nothing from the blacklisting scandal. They want to intimidate workers not to join the union and if someone shows any interest then they will be marked as a target from day one. This is backdoor blacklisting and can’t be tolerated on a public sector project.”

According to Ucatt, the company’s refusal to allow access to the site is contrary to the Scottish government’s Fair Work Convention.

Mr Dillon added: “We don’t want favours, just fairness and the ability to speak to workers freely without fear of retribution. If the Fair Work Convention means anything then the Scottish government must take action to force Laing O’Rourke to provide proper access.”

Following initial Ucatt protests Colin Smyth MSP tabled a parliamentary motion condemning Laing O’Rourke’s action, which has so far received the support of 14 of his colleagues.

 “This issue will not go away,” Mr Dillon said. “The campaign to win access from Laing O’Rourke will be ramped up over the coming months.”

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