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Thursday 1st
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

Tottenham court occupied as laing tries to oust union rep

ELECTRICIANS and mechanics working on one of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects downed tools yesterday after bosses tried to move a union rep off site.

Sixty workers at the Crossrail site on Tottenham Court Road, London, occupied the canteen as a goofy Prince William posed for cameras “driving” one of Bombardier’s new Crossrail trains in Derby for the flagship new railway.

Laing O’Rourke, the blacklister company in charge of the construction, has refused to negotiate with unions and won’t recognise the mandate of Unite steward Terry Wilson.

Managers announced that Mr Wilson would be transferred off Crossrail altogether on Monday — prompting the protest from workers.

As the Star went to press last night, sources close to the dispute predicted walkouts would spread to all Crossrail sites if management did not back down.

Unite construction official Guy Langston said the failure to recognise Mr Wilson as the site rep was “in direct contravention of the Crossrail industrial relations policy.” He said bosses had also declined to give the union a copy of its employment policies.

“Workers at the site remain seated in the canteen despite threats to send them home and issue them with breaches of contract,” he said.

“We are dismayed that a contractor on Crossrail, the most prestigious construction project in Europe, cannot recognise a basic right to organise and elect union stewards in line with Crossrail’s procurement policies.”

A management spokesman said: “Laing O’Rourke can confirm that discussions are ongoing at our Tottenham Court Road site between management and site workers.

“These discussions are taking place in private and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Workers on the project occupied Laing O’Rourke’s Crossrail HQ last week, demanding that the company enter into negotiations with recognised trade unions Unite, Ucatt and GMB.

Union activists say they have been subjected to bullying, intimidation and surveillance at various Crossrail sites.

An early day motion blasting Crossrail bosses for working conditions and poor industrial relations has been signed by Labour, Conservative, SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs.

Laing O’Rourke was also one of a raft of major building firms forced to apologise in May for its role in an illegal blacklist that denied work to thousands of trade unionists.

Construction union Ucatt accused the company of “learning nothing from the blacklisting scandal” yesterday over a separate dispute.

The union said bosses on the huge Dumfries hospital construction project would only allow officials to talk to workers under the supervision of management.

“They want to intimidate workers not to join the union and if someone shows any interest then they will be marked as a target from day one,” Ucatt Scotland secretary Steve Dillion said.

“This is backdoor blacklisting and can’t be tolerated on a public-sector project.”

The Laing O’Rourke spokesman said: “When approached by Ucatt or any trade union, we offer a nominated official a slot within our site inductions, giving them an opportunity to speak to people at site and advertise the benefits of trade union membership.

“In our experience this is the most productive and appropriate environment for engagement.”

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