Construction workers take over Laing’s HQ in central London over pay and union rights fight
by Steve Sweeney
CONSTRUCTION workers occupied Crossrail offices in central London yesterday in an ongoing dispute over pay and industrial relations.
The demonstration saw hundreds of workers from the beleaguered infrastructure project block Oxford Street before a group made their way to Laing O’Rourke’s Crossrail HQ and entered the building.
One of the workers who was part of the occupation told the Star that “the lads occupied Laing’s offices on Crossrail” as they are angry about “the [firm’s] refusal to rejoin the JIB [Joint Industrial Board] national agreement” and “the failure to recognise democratically elected stewards.”
They are that demanding the company enter negotiations with recognised trade unions Unite, Ucatt and GMB and that it stop the victimisation of activists and officials.
The controversial project has seen a series of protests over pay and health and safety, and union activists claim to have been subjected to bullying, intimidation and surveillance at various Crossrail sites.
There have been allegations of blacklisting being used to punish workers who have taken part in action or for trade union activities.
Union officials say they have been refused access to workers, despite a national agreement being in place.
Earlier this week Labour MP Stephen Hepburn tabled an early day motion calling for improved industrial relations on Crossrail.
An electrician and shop steward who was at the demonstration explained: “We’re down here today, it’s not been organised by the unions it’s the lads organising themselves together and we’ve come out because we want a second tier payment and we want meaningful negotiations with our union representatives.”
He pointed out that “under our national agreement we are due a second tier payment if we request it” and called for Crossrail to “come to the table and negotiate.”
The protesters are angry over Crossrail’s refusal to stick to the JIB, which allows for additional “second tier” bonus productivity payments.
They say that Crossrail bosses told them to go back to the contractors, but the contractors say Crossrail is responsible for the payments.
A spokesperson for Crossrail said: “We are aware of this demonstration by Unite the union which is seeking to secure a bonus payment from Crossrail’s principal contractors.”
But Unite regional officer Guy Langston said: “Crossrail and the contractors have attempted to attach the ‘Day of Action’ to Unite and Ucatt which isn’t the case. This is clearly a conscientious decision by workers on Crossrail to tell them they want their unions to negotiate on their behalf.
“We are told by the rank and file that further demos are planned until they get round the table and negotiate.” A union representative who was involved in the action called it “a wake up call” for management, saying they “have shown nothing but contempt for the workforce.”
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