Unite statement following the Executive Council meeting to discuss the Birmingham conference centre
- Friday 29 January 2021
Today's meeting of the Unite Executive Council (EC) to discuss the Birmingham conference, hotel and education facility unanimously endorsed the reports submitted relating to the project.
The EC was presented with detailed information setting out the costs of building the centre, which has been valued as equal to the investment made.
The total cost of the centre, which includes a four-star hotel, state of the art conference centre and top class education facilities, as well as Unite’s new West Midlands regional office, was reported as slightly over £98 million. This compared with an original estimate given to the union before work on the site began of £57 million.
General Secretary Len McCluskey reported to the EC that the increase was due to multiple factors, of which the most significant was the cost of implementing a union protocol.
Len McCluskey paid tribute to the EC for their principled decision to reject the shabby employment practices that beset the construction sector and instead mandate that only directly-employed workers engaged on at least national pay rates and with union membership work on the site, both for the main contractor and the forty sub-contractors involved.
This measure severely limited the number of possible contractors available to bid for work.
A further significant factor was escalating general costs in the construction industry in Birmingham, which have risen by 24 per cent over the last five years.
Other causes of the increase included the addition of an extra floor on the hotel; the upgrading of the hotel to four star plus; and the need to install sprinklers and other safety measures in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.
The EC was also satisfied that the union's standards for tendering had been adhered to throughout the management of this project which had, however, been disrupted by the tragic death of its Finance Director Ed Sabisky, in February 2020.
Mr Sabisky, an experienced businessman of impeccable reputation, had led the oversight of the project until that point.
Mr McCluskey said following the meeting: “Unite takes the management of our members’ money and assets extremely seriously, which was reiterated by our Executive Council today. The world-class Birmingham hotel, conference and education centre is a reflection of this union’s sound management of its finances as an investment that will grow in value for our union.
“The EC spoke as one when they expressed their fury at those who have sought to question the integrity of the Birmingham project and the much-admired but sadly lost colleague, Ed Sabisky, whose vision it was.
“Those engaged in this disgraceful smear campaign should hang their heads in shame and desist immediately. They would be better off directing their attentions to the genuine cronyism and corruption surrounding the contracts handed out by the Conservative government, gifting taxpayers’ money to their friends and acquaintances.
“All Unite members can take pride in the wonderful building we have created in England’s second city. It will be a powerful resource for working people for many years to come, and will stand as a monument to Unite’s financial strength and commitment to its members.
“This is not the first time that a hostile media has sought to undermine and smear Unite. They do so because we are strong and because, even in the midst of a dreadful pandemic, we are standing up for workers and winning victories – at Rolls Royce, at British Airways, in forcing the government to abandon plans to scrap attacks on employment rights.
“Our Executive Council, having had all the questions it legitimately raised answered, rejected these attacks with contempt.
“The Birmingham project embodies the ambitions of our union for our members and working people everywhere. It will deliver the best in education, training and support for the working class.
“It is a statement of this union’s enduring commitment to working people, built in lasting tribute to our members, and we look forward to it opening its doors to host them as soon as possible.”
For further information (media only), please contact Pauline Doyle on 07976832861 or email [email protected]
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
Notes to Editors
The Unite project at Birmingham consists of a 1000 capacity conference centre, a four star hotel, an education and training facility and a new office for the Birmingham region of the union. It has been submitted for architectural design awards.
A similar project in Solihull involving a Hilton hotel was recently sold as part of a £500 million deal, while in Manchester, a project of a lesser standard to Unite’s was valued at £280 million.
The project began in May 2016 and was handed to the union on completion in December 2020.
Unite refuses to use construction companies that have been involved in blacklisting or are Conservative party donors.