Members of Unite, the UK’s largest union, employed by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), will meet with staff representatives next week (Tuesday 10 July) to decide on their next steps in opposing the proposed closure of the organisation’s head office in Bircham Newton, Norfolk.
Following a formal consultation meeting this week (Tuesday 2 July) senior management of the CITB made it clear that they were not prepared to consider any counter proposals to maintain the Bircham Newton headquarters, or consider relocating in Norfolk to either Kings Lynn or Norwich. Instead they insisted the organisation needed a central location with an as yet unidentified site in Peterborough being the preferred option.
As part of the head office move the CITB has confirmed that 133 existing staff will be made redundant. However that figure is in reality far higher as the CITB is also intent on outsourcing so called ‘back office’ roles including IT and maintenance work. It is understood that the majority of existing staff in these roles will not transfer and will therefore face redundancy.
In a separate development the government minister responsible for the CITB Ann Milton MP has admitted that the CITB’s plans ‘will be a significant challenge’.
Replying to a question from Labour’s shadow housing spokesperson John Healey MP, junior education minister Ms Milton said: “We understand that delivery of these reforms will be significant challenge, and CITB will need to consider what changes to their operational model are appropriate. It is important that due consultation takes place regarding sites and people affected by these decisions and we know that CITB are consulting with their employees, employee representatives, and local authorities and MPs on the changes required to deliver their stretching reforms.”
With confirmation that the CITB is definitely moving its headquarters from Bircham Newton - a decision local MP Sir Henry Bellingham described as a ‘betrayal’ - there is also fresh doubts about the future of the national construction college also based at Bircham Newton.
The CITB has already announced that it will no longer directly provide its unique construction courses and will seek to outsource this work. If no private provider is found, the training could close, which would have serious implications for the long-term future of the UK construction industry.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Mark Robinson said: “The CITB’s plans will lead to far more than 133 job losses. While there may be a job for some in Peterborough it is simply too far away for it be financially viable for the overwhelming majority of staff.
“The board will be paying millions in redundancy payments and spending huge sums on recruiting new staff.
“In addition, the board’s plan to outsource services and divest from direct training later this year is likely to have a catastrophic impact on employment in the area. Unite believes the head office consultation is a smokescreen to hide the actual number of people who will lose their jobs.
“The government’s warning that the CITB’s plans will pose a ‘significant challenge’ should be sending warning bells throughout the organisation.
“Unite is calling on the CITB’s new chairman Peter Lauener to suspend the whole process, undertake a full and independent review and consult with industry to find out what it wants .”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.