HS2: Balfour Beatty and Vinci accused of allowing ‘Scrooge’ activities at Old Oak Common
- Friday 27 November 2020
Unite, the UK’s construction union, has discovered that workers operating on the flagship HS2 project at the Old Oak Common site, are being systematically denied the correct pay rates, resulting in them losing hundreds of pounds a month.
HS2’s Old Oak Common site is operated by a joint venture between major construction contractors Balfour Beatty and Vinci. The joint venture is using logistics contractor Munnelly to recruit workers to the site.
Following concerns raised by Unite members working on the project, Unite has learned that Munnelly has employed workers on contracts paying only a basic rate for 55 hours a week and that they do not receive any increased overtime rates until they clock up additional hours.
Rules not applied
However, following agreements between HS2, the TUC and Unite, it was agreed that the project would follow and abide by the relevant industrial agreement. In this case the relevant agreement is the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) working rule agreement.
The CIJC clearly states that a standard working week is 39 hours and that all hours worked above this should be paid at enhanced overtime rates (initially time and a half rising to double time for some weekend working). The CIJC sets minimum rates of pay but clearly states that overtime rates apply to the agreed basic rate of pay.
Failure to act
Unite has raised the contract issues concerning Munnelly with Balfour Beatty and Vinici and has been rebuffed. The joint venture has wrongly claimed that as Munnelly pay above the London living wage and above the CIJC minimum wage rates, it is not required to follow the overtime rules.
Unite has suggested that the joint venture and the union enter into conciliation with the joint secretaries of the CIJC to resolve the issue but Balfour Beatty and Vinci have failed to respond to this suggested way forward.
Unite will instead be raising the matter directly with the CIJC, to ensure a resolution. The union has also made HS2 aware of the issue. It is anticipated the client will ensure that its contractors follow the rules on employment that it has established.
Unite regional officer Paul Lomax said: “As we approach Christmas it is sad to see that Scrooge is alive and well at Old Oak Common, where Balfour Beatty and Vinci are deliberately allowing workers to be underpaid for working on HS2.
“Balfour Beatty and Vinci appear to have given Munnelly the green light to undermine existing agreements, thereby denying workers on their sites the correct rates of overtime pay.
“HS2 is the largest construction project in the UK and clear rules have been established to ensure that workers are treated fairly and decently. It is essential that HS2 ensures that these are followed, to avoid the project suffering from delays and poor productivity.
“Unite is entirely committed to ensuring that our members employed by Munnelly at Old Oak Common are treated fairly, we will use all our influence both politically and legally to ensure this occurs. We will also be seeking an industrial solution.
“It is hoped that Balfour Beatty and Vinci realise that workers need to be treated fairly and receive the full benefits of the CIJC agreement and work with Unite to ensure that these initial problems are quickly resolved.”
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.