Less than the day after the prime minister called for more vocational training, the UK's main construction training body is planning to ditch staff, according to Unite, the country's chief construction union.

Training sell off

The union also fears the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is planning to sell its training centres, putting at risk the sector's capacity to train the new construction workers the government seeks.

Unite has little faith the CITB’s board will change its proposals after its chair refused to meet the union to discuss the organisation's strategy including plans to hit workers with a triple whammy of cuts to pay, conditions and jobs.

Triple whammy

The CITB has reneged on an agreement to increase staff pay by 2.54 per cent, announced that it wishes to slash redundancy terms from three weeks for every year worked to just one week and it also intent on making 110 staff (one in eight of its workforce) redundant.

The latest problems at the CITB, which is critical in delivering construction apprentice and skills training, highlights the reality of the problems being faced in vocational education and come just a day after the prime minister promised a radical ‘shake up of further education.

Hidden plans

Unite is concerned that the CITB is keeping the industry and workers in the dark about its plans, failing to publish it financial accounts for this year.  The union believes the accounts could reveal that the CITB has already made provision to dispose of its national construction colleges (NCCs), the largest of which is Bircham Newton, including redundancy payments for staff.

The NCC at Bircham Newton in particular is a unique national asset and provides highly specialised construction training which are often not available anywhere else in the UK.

Washed hands

Unite wrote to Peter Lauener the chair of the CITB, requesting a meeting to set out its concerns and the union’s belief that the redundancies and cuts are a choice and not a necessity.

However, Lauener has declined to meet with Unite stating that the plans to cut jobs, strip redundancy rights and deny workers a deserved pay increase have the full support in principle of the CITB Board”.

Training undermined

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Mark Robinson said: “Unite was seeking an urgent meeting with Peter Lauener and the CITB board, to highlight our members’ concerns. But without even considering our proposals, Lauener and his fellow board members have simply washed their hands of this loyal workforce.

"We are seriously concerned that the CITB is pursuing a programme of cuts and sell-offs which could undermine the training aspirations announced by the prime minister only yesterday.

 “The CITB appears hell-bent on pushing through its abhorrent proposals, not only to save millions of pounds in reduced wages and redundancy costs but also to make the disposal of its construction colleges much easier.

 “The refusal of the CITB to open its books indicates that these cuts are not a necessity but a choice.

 “The CITB board repeatedly claims it takes its commitment to staff welfare seriously. If it doesn’t change its mind then many long serving, dedicated and hard-working staff will face 2021 with a very bleak future.”

UK staff hit

The redundancies at the Peterborough-based organisation will hit staff working throughout the UK.

Unite, together with representatives of senior management, has developed detailed plans to avoid a cut in redundancy terms, however the CITB is refusing to even consider these proposals.

Consultation deadline 

Unite has requested that the redundancy consultation is extended from 8 October until 9 November so that workers who are currently furloughed can be properly consulted. However, the CITB has only granted a meagre six day extension to 14 October.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

CITB workers facing immoral triple whammy of attacks on pay, conditions and jobs

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

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.