Commitments to ensure workers on the HS2 project would receive correct overtime rates are not being upheld, according to Unite the construction union
Last month Unite revealed 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.”
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.
Unite has said it is not aware of any such loophole.
The construction union has estimated that the workforce is owed a total in excess of £1m in underpaid overtime.
Unite is now organising to challenge this decision industrially and will take legal action where appropriate.
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.”
In response to the claims, an CSjv spokesperson said: “When we became aware of the issue, we committed to investigate and remedy any alleged underpayments. We found that the employees of one of our subcontractors were receiving a consolidated hourly rate that ensures their terms are better than they would be under the CIJC agreement. As a result employees have reverted back to their previous terms of employment, which are more beneficial for them”.