Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 7, February 27, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Unite Demands Action over Denial of Workers' Rights

Construction at Blackfriars tube station

Unite the union is demanding that Crossrail takes immediate action to ensure that workers are not denied basic employment rights. The problem on the troubled public sector rail project in London involves the use of electricians at the hugely delayed Bond Street station who are being given the bogus classification of "self-employed".

Under the rules governing the building of Crossrail, there is a requirement that workers are directly employed (standard PAYE) and paid per the relevant national construction agreement. Unite has been informed by Crossrail that it has "not abandoned any commitments and will absolutely not allow exploitation of any kind".

However, at the Bond Street station, where the principal contractor is Engie which has replaced the Costain/Skanska joint venture after it failed to complete the station, a number of directly employed electricians engaged by sub-contractor NCCL were recently made redundant, while those who were bogusly self-employed continued working at the station.

Due to the rules on direct employment in place on the project, the work will have been tendered on that basis. By using bogusly self-employed workers, companies avoid paying employers national insurance contributions which are 13.5 per cent of earnings and furthermore do not pay holiday pay or sick pay, dramatically increasing their profits. As a consequence workers are denied all employment rights.

Unite has attempted to resolve its concerns with Engie's senior management without success. It is now pursuing the matter with Crossrail and will raise its concerns directly with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: "Unite has had reassurances from Crossrail that the rules on direct employment remain in place. It is now essential that Crossrail takes decisive action to ensure its rules are upheld and this misuse of taxpayers' money is immediately ended.

"Rules on directly employing workers are essential in construction as it creates a level playing field and prevents works being exploited, ensuring they receive basic employment rights such as holiday pay.

"It is highly disturbing that the direct employment rules appear to be being ignored and it is essential to ascertain if any company on Crossrail is boosting its profits by not employing workers correctly.

"Taxpayers will be alarmed that it appears that work is being tendered on the basis of direct employment but workers are being recruited on cheaper inferior terms. This must be fully investigated.

"Unite has contacted Sadiq Khan directly. The London Mayor is ultimately responsible for the Crossrail project and should be highly concerned that such practices are occurring on his watch."

(Tim Lezard, Union News)


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