Unite, the construction union, has discovered workers on the government’s flagship HS2 development are being systematically denied their proper holiday entitlement and workers are losing over a hundred pounds a week in underpaid overtime pay.

Unite 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), which reveals the denial of nationally agreed holiday entitlement  and overtime rates.

Framework agreement ignored

All contracts on the multi-billion pound project are supposed to comply with a ‘framework agreement’ signed between HS2 and the TUC in April 2016. The purpose of the framework agreement is to provide good working relationships between the unions involved in building and eventually operating HS2 and the companies undertaking the work.

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.”

Holidays stolen

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. A policy that is apparently endorsed by CSJV, which recently stated: “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 (28 days) and sick pay.”

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.

Underpaid overtime

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.

The full scale of the pay abuses on the CSJV project is difficult to fully ascertain as management on the project are currently preventing Unite from having access to the workforce in the canteen during break times, when workers could raise any concerns with a Unite officer. The CSJV has justified this action by claiming that the presence of a Unite officer in the canteen would compromise their “health, safety and welfare”.

Absolutely scandalous

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.”


Notes to editors:

Campaign launched to end HS2 mistreatment of construction workers

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.