Unite slams HS2 as “workers are denied holiday pay and underpaid”

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The construction union, Unite, has said that workers on the HS2 scheme are being denied their correct holiday entitlement and are losing money over underpaid overtime pay

Unite has received multiple payslips from workers employed by 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.

All contracts on the HS2 scheme 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 details “that suppliers work constructively with trade unions party to this agreement, acknowledging their legitimate role in employee relations.”

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.

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.

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.”

In response to Unite’s claims, an HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “We have an agreement with the TUC demonstrating our commitment to working with the trade unions. By working together, we will build the new high-speed railway safely and create a diverse, inclusive and skilled workforce.”

A CSJV spokesperson added: “Costain Skanska JV (CSJV) uses approved suppliers to provide labour to some of our sites on the High Speed Two enabling works programme. The workers in question are paid via PAYE and receive full employment rights, which include a minimum of the London Living Wage, EU holiday and sick pay and welfare benefits.

“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.

“CSJV remains keen to maintain a working dialogue with Unite to ensure that its members’ views are considered and any concerns can be addressed swiftly. We have offered Unite access to site inductions where they can recruit members, as well as a suitable meeting room for recruitment and member engagement purposes, so that people working on our sites can choose how to spend their break times.”

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