Unite, the construction union, has expressed its anger and dismay after commitments to ensure that workers on the HS2 project would receive the correct overtime rates were reneged on.

Unite exposure

Last month Unite exposed how labour supplier Bowercross Construction Ltd which supplies workers to the Costain/Skanska joint venture (CSJV) which is undertaking enabling work on the HS2 project at Euston was not paying workers the correct overtime rates, which on average was costing workers over £100 a week.

Following Unite’s revelation CSJV issued a statement promising the correct rates would now be paid. It said: “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.”

Promises broken

Following a meeting with Peter Jones the project director of the CSJV, Unite was assured that Bowercross was already in receipt of the money to pay the workforce the correct overtime rates and that all workers would receive back pay for the money they had been underpaid.

However, after paying the correct overtime rates for a fortnight, Bowercross has now informed the workers that it will not be paying the correct overtime rates, claiming it has found a ‘loophole’ in the relevant agreement which means they don’t have to.

Fictional loophole

Unite which is the signatory to the relevant agreement is not aware and cannot identify any such loophole.

Unite has estimated that the workforce is owed a total in excess of £1 million in underpaid overtime.

Unite is now organising to challenge this decision industrially and will take legal action where appropriate if an early resolution to the issue cannot be found.

Workers treated with contempt

Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: “Workers on HS2 are being treated with contempt.

“HS2 should be the premier construction project in the UK but the contractors and subbies on the project can’t or won’t pay the workers correct rates of pay. It is worrying to think contractors brought onto  HS2 by Costain/Skanska are seeking loopholes in order to cut workers’ wages. I dread to think what else is going wrong with this project.

“Unite had assurances from CSJV that the correct overtime rates would be paid and that workers would receive back pay for the money they were owed. CSJV also said that Bowercross had already been paid the money.

“Questions need to be asked about where that money has gone and what action CSJV will take against a subbie who has flagrantly disregarded its wishes.

“It is also imperative that HS2 management step down from their lofty perch and get involved. If this type of industrial dispute is not dealt with in the early stages of this huge project, they are only going to get worse as HS2 develops.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Under the relevant national agreement, the Construction Industry Joint Council, with regards to overtime the workers under the CIJC agreement workers undertake a standard working week of 39 hours (Monday to Friday), all additional hours attract an overtime premium. It appears that standard working time on the project is 10 hours a day and a further 10 hours on a Saturday.

Bowercross 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.

Unite secures victory in HS2 overtime and holiday scandal

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.