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Campaign launched to end alleged HS2 exploitation

Unite the union has launched campaign to end the mistreatment of construction workers operating on the High Speed Two (HS2) project.

Unite launched the campaign with a protest outside of the headquarters of Costain-Skanska Joint Venture (CSJV), who are currently carrying out works for HS2 in London.

According to the union, construction workers working on the CSJV section of the project are being routinely denied direct employment and forced to operate via exploitative payroll and umbrella companies. This way of employing workers simply adds to the cost as the payroll/umbrella company has to be paid  In most cases this results in a deduction from the workers’ wages or a lower rate of pay.

Unite claim that Costain-Skanska Joint Venture has created a culture of fear and secrecy on the project by banning the union from having normal access to the workforce during their breaks.

This policy could effectively ensure workers are unable to raise concerns about, safety, pay, conditions, welfare facilities, blacklisting and bullying. This fear is reinforced by the use of an umbrella company which is designed to remove or reduce the workers’ rights.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said:

HS2 is one of the most high profile construction projects in the UK and there is an agreement between the unions and HS2 that outlaws these types of sharp practices.

It would be reasonable to expect that HS2’s management, would want to ensure that first class workers’ rights exist on this project and as a minimum uphold the agreement they signed.

HS2 need to take action against the likes of CSJV, who have made it clear to me that they care little for their clients wishes and even less for workers’ rights.

By barring union officials from speaking to workers during their breaks the question needs to be asked what have the management of CSJV got to hide? I suspect quite a bit from the reports I am receiving.

He continued:

In an industry which still has the stench of blacklisting hanging over it, it is essential to allow workers to speak freely to union officials, this is the only way to ensure that dangerous and dishonest practices don’t flourish and fester.

Today is the start of our campaign and those companies that spent decades destroying the lives of construction workers with their blacklist and unsafe practices need to learn that those days are over, Unite is not going away.

Following the initial CSJV demonstration, Unite will now be extending its campaign across all of HS2’s sites.

You can find out more about the campaign here and you can join Unite here.

Photo: Unite the Union

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