Construction News

Sat May 28 2022

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Union claims HS2 workers are denied holiday rights

27 Mar 19 Unite, the construction union, is claiming that workers on the HS2 project are being ‘systematically denied their proper holiday entitlement’ as well as not getting the full overtime pay that they are due.

Unite says that it has received multiple payslips from workers employed by labour supplier Bowercross Construction Ltd (BCL) on the enabling work being undertaken at Euston by the Costain Skanska Joint Venture (CSjv) that reveal the denial of nationally agreed holiday entitlement  and overtime rates.

All HS2 contracts are supposed to comply with the framework agreement signed by HS2 Ltd and the Trades Union Congress in April 2016 to maintain harmonious industrial relations during building works.

Under the framework agreement there is “a commitment by HS2 Ltd and its suppliers that the latter will recognise and apply relevant national agreements”. The framework further sets out “that suppliers work constructively with trade unions party to this agreement, acknowledging their legitimate role in employee relations.”

Under the relevant national agreement, the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC), workers are entitled to 30 days holiday a year. However the workers employed via BCL are only receiving 28 days holiday entitlement.

When Unite first raised the issue of BCL workers last month, CSjv said: “All BCL workers on our programme are paid via PAYE and receive full employment rights, which include a minimum of the London living wage, EU holiday and sick pay.”

However, EU holiday entitlement is 28 days, not the 30 days that CIJC allows.

With regards to overtime, workers under the CIJC agreement workers undertake a standard working week of 39 hours (Monday to Friday) and all additional hours attract an overtime premium. It appears that standard working time on CSjv’s HS2 project is 10 hours a day and a further 10 hours on a Saturday, Unite says.

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From the payslips that Unite has seen workers are only receiving their standard rate of pay for overtime on Monday to Friday, instead of the time and half stated in the CIJC agreement. For a Saturday the workers get an additional £3.50 an hour, while the CIJC agreement states workers should receive time and a half for the first four hours and double time thereafter.

As previously reported, Unite is pressing CSjv to be allowed access to the workforce in the canteen during break times, when workers could raise any concerns with a Unite officer. A CSjv spokesperson told us last month:  “CSjv are keen to meet with Unite to discuss their concerns and have previously offered opportunities for them to meet our workers.”

Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: “HS2 is the largest construction project in the UK and as such should be paying the highest pay rates and providing the best possible conditions. It is absolutely scandalous that workers on HS2 are systemically being denied the correct overtime rates and having holidays stolen from them.

“The CSJV requires workers to work six days a week but it isn’t willing to pay them correctly for the time they are working. HS2 must launch an immediate investigation into these underpayments and ensure that the agreement they signed is being fully complied with for all constructions workers on all of its sites. Every worker, including those no longer on the project, should be compensated for the money they have been denied.

“Costain and Skanska are ignoring the framework agreement which has been established to ensure good practice. As a first step in rebuilding trust on the HS2 development Unite should be given access to the CSJV canteen, a practice which is an accepted standard across the industry.”

A CSjv spokesperson said today: “We have looked into Unite’s report concerning the industry agreement rate for overtime and weekend duty, as well as holiday entitlement. The company concerned has been instructed to remedy this with immediate effect so that we meet our required standards.

“CSjv remains keen to maintain a working dialogue with Unite to ensure that its members’ views are considered and any concerns can be addressed swiftly. We have offered Unite access to site inductions where they can recruit members, as well as a suitable meeting room for recruitment and member engagement purposes, so that people working on our sites can choose how to spend their break times.”

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