The TUC Congress has today (Wednesday 11 September) overwhelmingly passed an emergency motion, demanding that HS2 takes immediate action to allow unions access to workers building the multi-billion pound project.

Union busting

The motion was moved by Unite, the UK’s construction union, as a result of the continued refusal by the Costain Skanska Joint Venture (CSJV) to allow Unite officials to speak to workers during their breaks at their HS2 site in Euston.

Proven blacklisters

Moving the motion Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: The Euston demolition and clearance work is managed by a joint venture comprising Costain and Skanska. Two companies that are proven blacklisters. Two companies that have claimed to have changed their ways. Two companies whose actions show that a leopard doesn’t change its spots.

“Costain and Skanska’s reasoning for barring Unite is both disingenuous and sinister saying that workers need to ‘decompress’ after being involved in the removal of centuries old skeletons on the site.

“If workers are traumatised this is when they most need their union. And the workers tell us they want us on the inside.

“Shame on you Costain and Skanska for using the dead to justify your union busting.”

Agreement breached

In 2016 HS2 signed an Initial Framework Agreement (IFA) with the TUC and unions, which is designed to underpin good employment practices on the project including allowing officials on site to speak and recruit workers during their breaks.

However, HS2 has appeared reluctant to ensure that Costain/Skanska complies with the IFA.

HS2 must act

Gail Cartmail also said: “HS2 is the client. HS2 has the power. HS2 controls the purse strings. HS2 can demand all contractors follow the framework agreement signed by the TUC and HS2 – a good agreement that should underpin union access and workers’ rights.

“We say as trade unionists we have a profound duty to ensure workers building the future prosperity of our nation are treated with respect. We expect nothing less than union jobs on union rates.”

Crossrail blighted

Unite believes it is critical that the issue of union access is resolved early in the construction of HS2 to avoid the problems which blighted Crossrail. The lack of union access on some sites and the failure to ensure good employment practices has contributed to delays as a result of low productivity, bullying and blacklisting in all its forms on the project.

The commitment made yesterday (Tuesday 10 September) by Jeremy Corbyn and Laura Pidcock, that the next Labour government will introduce new laws to allow unions access to workplaces, would when enacted resolve this type of dispute.

However, Unite will not be waiting for the general election and will now be stepping up its campaign to ensure that workers aren’t denied access to the union at the CSJV site in Euston and on all HS2 sites.


Notes to editors:

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

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