Carillion faces legal action over workers’ pay and pension rights

The Unite union is set to take legal action against Carillion after claiming that the collapsed construction and support services firm breached its legal obligations to give notice of redundancies.

The company, which employs 20,000 people in the UK including thousands in Scotland, was placed into compulsory liquidation yesterday morning with debts of £1.15 billion and a pension shortfall of over half a billion after talks with the UK government to save the company were unsuccessful.

Unite Scotland pointed to current labour laws, which say employers with a workforce of more than 20 at one location are legally obliged to give employees 30 days’ notice of possible redundancies.

Carillion had been involved in the £745 million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) and had contracts with Registers of Scotland, the Scottish Children’s Reporter AdministrationWest of Scotland Housing Association and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde among many others.

Network Rail awarded Carillion a contract last year to deliver platform extension works and the firm is also responsible for two facilities management contracts worth £158m with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which cover 83 military sites in Scotland.

In the last six months, the company issued three profit warnings and yet in that time was awarded contracts worth more than £2bn by the UK government.

Unite’s Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Given (yesterday’s) drastic events it’s clear that Carillion was legally obliged to give notice to the workforce in December of the possibility of redundancies.

“It hasn’t done that. So Unite is taking advice about legal action to secure the pay and pension rights of our members.

“Obviously saving jobs is the priority but we also have to make sure that workers don’t pay the price for what is boardroom greed and recklessness.”

Unite Scotland said that the collapse of Carillion should be a stark warning about the obsessions across the UK, in Westminster, Holyrood, and local government about the privatisation of public services.

The union believes that for a long time putting public services out to private tender has “started an undercutting merry go round” which may have affected Carillion. According to Unite, the company has lost hundreds of millions because major contracts turned out to be loss-makers after tender bids were perilously low.

Pat Rafferty added: “This is what happens after years of worship at the Holy Grail of privatisation. It starts with the mistaken belief that private provision is best and ends with the tax payer picking up a billion pound tab when reality proves that is not true. There needs to be a government inquiry to establish just what went wrong at Carillion so that lessons can be learned. Meantime the administrators have to determine what contracts held by Carillion can be brought into public control.”

Unite has welcomed the fact that the government and the administrators PwC have to date given guarantees about financial support for the continuation and completion of public contracts formally held by Carillion.

The Scottish Government has confirmed it is in talks with UK counterparts and liquidators to work out how best to support Carillion employees and contracts.

‘Procurement lessons must be learned’ after Carillion demise

Trade bodies and unions have called on both the UK and Scottish governments to ensure that appropriate lessons are learned for future decisions on the procurement of large scale construction projects following the collapse on the UK’s second biggest construction firm.

Carillion was placed into compulsory liquidation before opening of business this morning after talks with the UK government to save the company were unsuccessful.

The firm had been involved in the £745 million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) and had contracts with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Network Rail among many others and was also responsible for two facilities management contracts worth £158m with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which cover 83 military sites in Scotland.

The Scottish Building Federation (SBF) said the Scottish Government must learn lessons on the procurement of large scale construction projects and also raised concerns about the potential impact of the company’s liquidation on smaller subcontractors currently working on major projects.

Scottish Building Federation President Stephen Kemp, managing director of Orkney Builders, said: “The news that Carillion has now gone into liquidation has major ramifications for the UK construction sector. But it should also stand as an important lesson for government that, when it comes to awarding public sector work, big is by no means always best. As a trade federation, we have long argued that the bundling of contracts into huge frameworks that only the very biggest companies can bid for is not only detrimental for SME contractors that are unable to compete – it also creates big risks for government when something like this happens.”

Mr Kemp added: “I think the Scottish Government needs to take a closer look at procurement practices and put in place measures to enable greater SME participation. This may require the procuring authority to do more work to manage the contract across multiple contractors. But spreading the work and associated risk across multiple smaller companies would not only be good for the industry – it should deliver better outcomes for the taxpayer.”

Willie Gray, managing director of William Gray Construction and director of the Scottish Building Federation, said: “We are concerned about the potential fall-out of this news on smaller contractors working on major projects involving Carillion such as the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. We are now contacting the SBF membership across Scotland to identify any subcontractors who may have been adversely affected by Carillion going into liquidation. We will be offering them whatever help we can to negotiate this difficult period and ensure those adverse effects are kept to a minimum.”

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the UK government must learn from Carillion’s demise and assess its over-reliance on major contractors.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Carillion’s liquidation is terrible news for all those who work for the company and it will have serious knock-on effects for the many smaller firms in its supply chain, some of which will be in serious financial danger as a result of Carillion’s demise.”

He added: “Carillion’s liquidation raises serious questions for the government, not least about its over-reliance on major contractors. The government needs to open up public sector construction contracts to small and micro firms by breaking larger contracts down into smaller lots. That way, it can spread its risk while also reaping the benefits that come from procuring a greater proportion of its work from a broad range of small companies.

“Construction SMEs train two-thirds of all apprentices and are a sure-fire way of spreading economic growth more evenly throughout the UK.”

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) warned that the collapse of Carillion also has a number of major ramifications for its own industry.

Chief executive, Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, said: “It’s always a sad day when a company goes into liquidation, putting at risk thousands of jobs and livelihoods.”

He added: “In the immediate term, we need to ensure that our members from the consultancy and engineering sector, who worked with Carillion on some of the key infrastructure contracts they held, are paid. There are always competing interests when a company goes into liquidation, but the importance of our members to delivering the nation’s infrastructure is such that we would argue they should be at the front of any queue. We will lobby the government and creditors to ensure that this is the case.

“In the medium term, our members are ready and willing to provide their knowledge, expertise and guidance to the government to help see them through the difficult months ahead. We cannot allow the collapse of Carillion to slow the delivery of some of our major infrastructure projects like HS2, nor affect the maintenance of our existing infrastructure, like the rail network.

“In the long term, this is an awakening for major structural change in the construction industry. The challenges of low profitability and negative cash flow experienced by the contracting sector confirm that the current procurement process is broken. A new business model, coupled with client leadership, is urgently required to make our industry fit-for-the-future and ensure we won’t experience difficulties with other major players.”

Unions have warned that the collapse of Carillion collapse must not mean “business as usual” for the UK’s largest companies and is another example of the “perils of privatisation” within the public sector.

Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer for local government, said: “These have been a grim few days for this workforce. They will head into work today not knowing if their wages, pensions and even their jobs are safe.

“The administrator must provide reassurances on these to the workforce as a matter of urgency, and also that vital public services on which many depend will continue to be provided.

“We will be seeking a meeting with the administrator today to press home that that the priorities now are not the shareholders but the workers who provide the service and the people relying on them.

“One thing is evidently clear from this: there must be no business as usual for big business.  There has to be an urgent inquiry into how a company that loaded itself with debt, which undercut competitors with unsustainable bids, which hoovered up vats of public money, and that had repeatedly alerted the government to its own financial shortcomings got its hands on so much of the public sector and taxpayers’ cash.

“We are also very concerned about the impact of Carillion’s collapse on the wider supply chain. Many of these small firms are the lifeblood of their community but their exposure to Carillion’s debt puts them at serious risk.

“PWC must put workers and suppliers at the head of the queue for payment, not the banks and certainly not the Carillion boardroom whose greed and recklessness has brought this giant company to its knees and imperiled so much of our public services.”

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary, added: “The fact such a massive government contractor like Carillion has been allowed to go into administration shows the complete failure of a system that has put our public services in the grip of shady profit making contractors.

“The priority now for the government and administrators is making sure kids in schools still get fed to day – and our members still have jobs and pensions.

“There is no place for private companies who answer to shareholders, not patients, parents and service users in our public services.

“What’s happening with Carillion yet again shows the perils of allowing privatisation to run rampant in our schools, our hospitals and our prisons.”

GMB also called on Prime Minister Theresa May to act immediately to take Carillion contracts into public ownership.

The union called for a full and transparent inquiry into the provision of public services by private sector contractors once jobs and services were secured.

Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: “The Prime Minister must act right now to bring Carillion contracts back into public ownership. That is the only way to safeguard the jobs and services this mess has put at risk.

“Merely propping up this botched shell of a company is not a secure or stable solution for our public services. It’s high time we brought this vital work back in house.

“Despite months of profit warnings, ministers have failed to prepare for the collapse of Carillion, which has plunged workers into crisis today.

“The government has continued to spoon-feed the company taxpayers’ money by awarding them yet more contracts. Ministers should be hanging their heads in shame today – it’s a complete shambles.

“Carillion is the tip of the iceberg. Continued privatisations have mortgaged our future and services that we all rely on to profiteering companies.

“The minute jobs and services are secure, the Prime Minister must conduct a full and transparent inquiry into the provision of public services by private sector contractors with a view to taking them back under public control. What is unfolding at Carillion must never be allowed to happen again.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) stressed the importance of Carillion’s small suppliers being paid what they are owed.

FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry, said: “It is vital that Carillion’s small business suppliers are paid what they are owed, or some of those firms could themselves be put in jeopardy, putting even more jobs at risk besides those of Carillion’s own employees.

“These unpaid bills may well go back several months. I wrote to Carillion back in July last year to express concern after hearing from FSB members that the company was making small suppliers wait 120 days to be paid.

“Sadly these kind of poor payment practices are all too common among some big corporates. Perhaps if they weren’t it would be easier to spot the warning signs of a huge company in financial trouble.

“When the dust settles on this sorry saga, there is also a wider lesson to learn about the concentration of public contracts in the hands of a small number of very big businesses. Public procurement must be much more small-business friendly, in which it is easier for small firms to navigate the system and the Government should prioritise meeting its target of at least one third of taxpayer-funded contracts going to smaller firms.”

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said governments must consider how they can better monitor the robustness of governance at key contractors.

Roger Barker, head of corporate governance, said: “We are still in the early stages of finding out what went wrong at Carillion. However, it is clear that major providers of public services must be governed in a prudent manner. Today’s outcome suggests that effective governance was lacking at Carillion, and we must now consider if the board and shareholders have exercised appropriate oversight prior to the collapse.

“There are some worrying signs. The relaxation of clawback conditions for executive bonuses in 2016 appears in retrospect to be highly inappropriate. It does no good to the reputation of UK business when top managers appear to benefit in spite of the collapse of the organisations that they are responsible for.

“Going forward, it may be necessary for government to consider how it can better monitor the robustness of governance at key contractors.”

Unite to lobby Parliament as part of blacklisting day of action

Unite workers taking part in a demonstration in Edinburgh today

Unite workers taking part in a demonstration in Edinburgh today

Members of the Unite union working in the construction industry are lobbying the UK government today as part of a nationwide day of action in its ongoing campaign for justice for blacklisted workers.

Unite members and MPs will congregate outside the Houses of Parliament this afternoon and will then attend a meeting in Parliament where they will be addressed by leading Labour MPs including John McDonnell, Jonathan Ashworth, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Louise Haigh.

The union is also holding protests today at the sites of companies involved in construction blacklisting throughout the UK including: Birmingham, Brighton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester and Nottingham.

The lobby of Parliament and day of action has been called as part of Unite’s continuing campaign for justice for blacklisted workers. Unite is calling for a full public inquiry into blacklisting, for the practice to become a criminal offence and for companies caught blacklisting to be barred from bidding for public sector contracts.

This week Unite launched new high court proceedings to bring the “controlling minds” behind the systematic blacklisting of workers to justice.

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “The disgusting practice of blacklisting has not disappeared. Blacklisting will not be stamped out until the government brings in effective laws.

“Unite are uncovering fresh cases of contemporary blacklisting which demonstrates why urgent action is needed to end blacklisting once and for all.

“It is simply outrageous that companies who have been caught blacklisting and have ruined the lives of construction workers, have escaped virtually scot free and continue to be rewarded with public sector contracts.

“Unite will leave no stone unturned in our fight for justice for blacklisted workers and will use every avenue open to us; be it industrial, political or legal to win justice for our members.”

Unite assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett, added: “It is simply unacceptable that those companies guilty of blacklisting continue to benefit from public procurement and simply beyond reason that those individuals who gave the instructions for the blacklist to be created remain at the top of the companies concerned and have not been subject to any discipline proceedings whatsoever.

“If our members arrive late for work they are subject to discipline. The greedy bosses place trade unionists on blacklists, cost their companies millions of pounds in legal costs and damages and get away without sanction.

“They think they live by different rules than the rest of us, well it is not acceptable and this is why Unite continue the legal fight for justice to see individuals who are responsible answer to a court of law.”

Unite union takes legal action against blacklist ‘ringleaders’

building stock 2Construction union Unite has issued high court proceedings against the “controlling minds” behind the industry blacklisting scandal.

The high court case for unlawful conspiracy is against David Cochrane, Cullum McAlpine, Danny O’Sullivan and Stephen Quant, all four of whom undertook the role of chairman of the Consulting Association.

Mr McAlpine and Mr Cochrane were the first and last chairmen of the Consulting Association both of whom were employed by Sir Robert McAlpine. Mr O’Sullivan was employed by Kier and Mr Quant was an employee of Skanska UK.

The litigation is expected to force them to give evidence in court for the first time, the union said.

The action against the four leading blacklisters is part of a wider case being brought by Unite on behalf of over 70 construction workers who were blacklisted by the Consulting Association. These cases are for breach of privacy, defamation and for Data Protection Act offences.

As part of the legal action proceedings have also been issued against: Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Skanska UK Plc, Laing Limited, John Laing Construction Ltd, Kier Ltd, Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick Ltd, Balfour Beatty Construction Ltd, Crown House Technologies Ltd, Costain Building & Civil Engineering Ltd, Costain Ltd, Costain Oil Gas & Process Ltd and Carillion Construction Ltd.

Unite announced its latest round of legal cases ahead of the anti-blacklisting day of action and lobby of Parliament which will take place on Wednesday 6 December.

The union is calling for a full public inquiry into blacklisting, new laws to make blacklisting a criminal offence and the introduction of public procurement rules to bar companies found to have blacklisted workers from bidding for public sector contracts.

Unite assistant general secretary for legal affairs, Howard Beckett, said: “Unite is determined to ensure that the people directly responsible for blacklisting workers and ruining their lives are brought to justice and have to answer for their actions.

“Since 2009 the individuals who were the controlling minds behind the systematic blacklisting of workers have sought to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. The workers who had their lives ruined deserve to see the leading blacklisters in court.

“Last year Unite successfully took high court action on behalf of hundreds of blacklisted construction workers and won millions of pounds of compensation for them. Unite is the only organisation which is continuing to take legal action on behalf of the victims of blacklisting.”

Unite assistant general secretary for construction, Gail Cartmail, added: “Unite will continue to lobby and campaign for justice for blacklisted workers until this disgraceful practice is ended once and for all.

“Unite is seeking justice for blacklisted workers through every avenue open to us whether that is legal, political or industrial.

“Whenever Unite uncovers blacklisting we will stamp out the practice and name and shame the guilty parties.”

Union challenges construction industry to spell out training plans

roofing-training-bircham-616In the midst of a widening skills crisis the construction industry must spell out how it will train more British workers to avoid a “calamitous Brexit for the sector”, according to Unite.

The UK’s construction union made the call as trade bodies this week warned that house builders in particular faced a cliff edge in terms of its access to EU workers post-Brexit.

The trade bodies called for more details of the UK government’s plans to implement a two-year grace period for EU citizens looking to apply for settled status and for a post-transitional migration system, based on key occupations where workers are in short supply.

But Unite said it was time the industry demonstrated that rather than relying on cheap labour and exploitative working practices, it was committed to training home grown talent through the provision of high quality apprenticeships ensuring all construction workers are directly employed in secure jobs.

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “The ongoing uncertainty over the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK is resulting in workers leaving the UK and is exacerbating the deepening construction skills crisis and threatening to seriously damage the industry.

“But those trade bodies need to set out what they intend to do to kick their addiction to cheap, foreign labour and horrific employment practices, not just ask how they can go on relying on EU labour after March 2019.

“Tens of thousands of young people are being placed in ‘dead end’ classroom based construction courses and these courses totally dwarf the number of construction apprentices beginning their training.

“This is at the same time that the CITB plans to cease providing training directly and instead divest courses to other training providers. It is clear that the industry needs to get its house in order.

“Unite is renewing its call on the industry to work with us to ensure that major construction projects train high numbers of apprentices. Unite will kick down doors to ensure that the number of high quality apprenticeships increases.

“Unite is committed to fighting for the right of EU citizens already in the UK to remain, and for the establishment of safeguards that defend all workers against wage cutting, including ending the exploitation of migrant workers, and stronger collective bargaining rights.”

CITB to quit direct training delivery under radical new strategy

Sarah Beale

Sarah Beale

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is to end the delivery of direct training and step back from operating its National Construction College site in Inchinnan as part of a “bold new strategy” for its future offer.

The announcement, which follows calls to reform from across the sector, will see the skills body “exit direct delivery of training through the National Construction College and cease services such as administering the card schemes”.

Proposals also include moving head office functions currently based in Bircham Newton, Norfolk and London to a new site in the Peterborough area and outsourcing all back office operations including IT, human resources and estates.

CITB chief executive Sarah Beale said its Vision 2020: The Future CITB strategy will help the organisation “become simpler, more streamlined” and become the “strategic, forward-looking and agile skills body that the industry is seeking”.

The CITB has made the announcement of massively reducing its activities within weeks of completing its triennial review of the organisation’s right to continue to collect a statutory construction levy from employers.

Although construction employers and trade associations voted for the levy to continue there was heavy criticism of how the CITB currently operates.

As a result, CITB said its new three-year strategy will see the organisation become a “commissioner of outcomes that delivers the industry’s core priorities”. The Future CITB will use Levy money to ensure a “sustainable training and development market, only intervening to provide a service where it is unavailable on the market, or not to the quality level that is sought”.

Sarah Beale said: “Construction needs to modernise and CITB is no exception. We accept the challenges laid down by industry and Government and we will deliver a future-fit training body by adapting and updating our business model.

“Some really tough decisions could be made under these proposals but I’m confident in our commitment to becoming a more representative, accountable and reliable ‘levy in, skills out’ organisation. We now have a clearly defined path, and we see a bright future for a modern, engaged CITB. We look forward to working with our industry and government to build a better Britain.”

In Scotland, the CITB said it would step back from operating its NCC site in Inchinnan under the proposals. However, the plan is to continue training at the site until a buyer is found. At that point, the CITB revealed, a new provider would take over construction training so that there is a “seamless” transition.

CITB will also maintain its support for the Modern Apprenticeship programme in Scotland.

Plans include a move for the CITB’s current head office in Norfolk, with Peterborough a likely new base. There will be small offices in London, Scotland and Wales to help deliver sector partnerships. CITB said around two-thirds of the workforce will “remain mobile” in order to be closer to customers.

The plans also include outsourcing of internal corporate support functions and customer operations by the end of 2018.

Sarah Beale added: “I understand this strategy will bring about big changes to employees at CITB and we will be supporting our colleagues as much as possible throughout this process. These are tough calls to make, but needed if we are to meet the future demands and make the greatest impact to construction.  We have worked hard to develop robust, well thought-out plans which meet our industry’s needs whilst building a solid foundation for CITB’s future. The proposals outlined today will be phased in over the next three years, and with our customers always in mind it’s business as usual.”

Construction union Unite describe the move as a “hammer blow” for the industry which will put a large number of jobs at risk of redundancy or outsourcing.

Unite national officer for construction, Jerry Swain, said: “These plans are a hammer blow for the construction industry and for the workers at the CITB.

“Thousands of construction workers owe their careers and their livelihoods to the unique training they have received at Bircham Newton.

“There are grave doubts if any private provider could or would provide the same level of training at the same cost, which is currently provided at this unique facility.

“It appears that the ‘reforms’ being proposed by the CITB are all about increasing profits for individuals and companies and not what is in the best interests of the construction industry.

“Construction is already facing a skills crisis and it is quite impossible to see how the CITB’s decision to end its role in providing training is not going to simply make a bad situation worse.

“The government must step in to ensure that these vitally important tutors and training facilities are not lost and that training is not downgraded.”

Unite regional co-ordinating officer, Mark Robinson, added: “These proposals essentially would slash trash and privatise the CITB.

“The likelihood of finding a training provider willing and capable to take on the National Construction College function of the Bircham Newton site and other NCC sites across the country is difficult to ascertain and puts hundreds of jobs at serious risk.

“Unite believes it is totally unnecessary to go to this level of change. For the CITB not to provide their own training on behalf of industry leaves the market wide open for less capable and reputable organisations to drive down the quality and standards that the industry expects.

“Unite will be seeking the views of its members to see what action can be taken to defend the hundreds of jobs not only in West Norfolk but throughout the country.”

Union calls for Interserve talks after 200 job losses announced

interserveInterserve is preparing to cut around 200 jobs across its UK operations as part of a wider cost-saving drive, according to reports.

Shares in the construction and services firm fell 38% last month after it warned operating profits in the second half would be around half that reported a year ago amid “further deterioration” in UK construction and support services.

The Interserve Board had admitted to “a realistic prospect” of the group breaching its financial covenants with lending banks.

The Construction Enquirer has now reported that letters were sent out last week to workers whose jobs are now at risk.

Jobs under threat are believed to be management and back office roles.

An Interserve spokesperson told Construction Enquirer: “Since October this year, we have been reviewing our business strategy and performance to create a stronger platform for Interserve’s future profitable growth.

“In the short term, we are reducing the overall costs within the business, and this will unfortunately have a direct impact on some of our people with possible job losses.”

The UK’s largest construction union Unite has called for employers at Interserve to meet with the union and discuss the company’s future.

Unite national office for construction, Bernard McAulay, said: “It is vitally important that Interserve sits down with Unite and explains fully what is going on at the company and what the plans are for the future.

“There are many Unite members currently employed with Interserve in construction roles who are becoming increasingly concerned about the uncertainty which is currently surrounding the company.

“It is not acceptable for Interserve to hold Unite at arms-length and to deny us a seat at the table when workers’ jobs are under threat.”

“Workers need reassurance that there are not going to be further job losses in the short to medium term.”

North Lanarkshire Council signs construction charter to protect worker rights and improve industry practices

(from left) Convener of the infrastructure committee, Councillor Michael McPake; Steve Dillon, regional co-ordinating officer at Unite; Michael Farnell and Graham McNab from Unite and leader of the council, Councillor Jim Logue

(from left) Convener of the infrastructure committee, Councillor Michael McPake; Steve Dillon, regional co-ordinating officer at Unite; Michael Farnell and Graham McNab from Unite and leader of the council, Councillor Jim Logue

Construction firms planning to work on North Lanarkshire Council build projects will now need to sign up to a four-point charter to protect employees’ rights and regulate industry standards.

Leader of North Lanarkshire Council, Jim Logue, cemented links with trade union, Unite, to take forward the charter which will ensure industry conditions and regulations are adhered to and workers’ rights, safety and pay are safeguarded.

The charter will also help to stamp out ruthless industry practices such as switching employees to self-employed status to evade tax resulting in the loss of employment rights.

The North Lanarkshire Council Construction Charter will be drawn up by the council and Unite, outlining the four key principles that all construction firms must comply with:

  • Health and Safety – including regulations and standards are rigorously adhered to
  • Employment Standards – to improve skills and employment opportunities
  • Pay and Benefits – minimum Living Wage standard and access to key benefits
  • Employment rights – good industrial relations and practices

Any construction business must also promote the benefits of any union membership to employees.

Councillor Logue said: “The council is currently embarking on ambitious plans right across North Lanarkshire including the single biggest investment in council houses for a generation and a planned programme to improve schools. For this, we work with a wide range of firms and suppliers at a number of sites, employing hundreds of people whose health and safety is paramount.

“It is vital that everyone working within the construction industry on council projects complies with the proposed charter to ensure health and safety standards are met, employees are treated and paid fairly and importantly, that all workers’ rights are protected.

“As an accredited Living Wage employer, it’s fundamental that the partners we work pass this on, as well as making a positive contribution to the provision of training, skills and employment opportunities locally.”

Steve Dillon, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “When the council spends public money, Unite wants to make sure it is going to companies who are investing in the local community, paying the appropriate rate for the job, and ensuring workers in their supply chains are treated with dignity and respect. Too often this has been lacking in construction therefore we welcome the support of the Labour leadership in North Lanarkshire Council in adopting the Construction Charter.

“Protecting the rights of construction workers is an ongoing struggle, but the Construction Charter is a signal to contractors that they must up their game and put in place systems at work that support a culture of positive industrial relations.

“We’re particularly pleased that the Charter says companies should not use umbrella companies to pay workers, and that it underlines the vital role of collective bargaining through trade unions.

“Unite is pushing the Construction Charter campaign across other councils and public bodies in Scotland and we expect them to follow the example of North Lanarkshire.”

Tata Steel and thyssenkrupp to create 50:50 European steel joint venture

Tata Steel career caroussel 3Tata Steel and German steel manufacturer thyssenkrupp have taken the first step towards a merger deal by signing a memorandum of understanding to combine their European steel operations.

The proposed 50:50 joint venture – thyssenkrupp Tata Steel – will lead to loss of around 4,000 jobs, but a union said it had been assured there would be no “reductions in production capacities” across the UK.

Almost 7,000 people are employed by Tata Steel across Wales.

That includes more than 4,000 in Port Talbot – the largest steel works in the UK.

Steel processing mills at Dalzell and Clydebridge were mothballed by Tata last year, threatening the loss of 270 jobs, before being snapped up by Liberty House.

Andrew Robb, chairman of Tata Steel Europe, said the announcement marked the latest step in “building a future for Tata Steel’s activities in Europe which is sustainable in every sense”.

Responding to the news, steel unions Unite, GMB and Community said: “The steel trade unions cautiously welcome this news and recognise the industrial logic of such a partnership.

“This would create the second biggest steel business in Europe which could deliver significant benefits for the UK.

“As always, the devil will be in the detail and we are seeking further assurances on jobs, investment and future production across the UK operations.

“As a priority, we will be pressing Tata to demonstrate their long term commitment to steelmaking in the UK by confirming they will invest in the reline of Port Talbot’s Blast Furnace No.5.

“We must also be assured that ThyssenKrupp’s pension liabilities will be ring-fenced with a cast-iron guarantee that UK steelworkers will never fund German pensions.

“We are now seeking an urgent meeting with Tata to fully understand their intentions for the UK in the context of the joint venture.

“We are also making arrangements to bring together senior representatives from across the UK to determine our approach to this significant new development.”

Construction firm accused of showing ‘utter contempt’ to social dumping fears

The Millerhill Resource and Energy Recovery Centre

The Millerhill Resource and Energy Recovery Centre

Trade unions GMB Scotland and Unite have accused construction giant Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) of treating workers and politicians with “utter contempt” following its response to social dumping fears on the Millerhill Recycling & Energy Recovery Centre (RERC) project.

After a joint trades union meeting with the City of Edinburgh Council leadership last week, council officers received feedback from HZI to trades union questions over undercutting of the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) – commonly known as the ‘Blue Book’ – through the sub contracts and supply chains. The Blue Book exists to protect minimum pay levels, appropriate safety standards and builds in procedures for dispute resolution.

Having argued for the project to provide jobs for local people, the joint unions said that the response to the council did not contain any assurances that jobs on the project are actually being advertised locally.

Among other questions posed over concerns that Millerhill is not a NAECI site, HZI replied: “As the project is not registered as a NAECI site the NAECI agreement does not apply. However HZI Industrial Relations Policy recognises the importance and understanding of the NAECI and the essential employment relations principles on which the NAECI is founded.”

The Scottish Government has previously been informed about concerns of employment rights abuses and migrant labour exploitation on publicly funded Energy from Waste (EfW) projects at Polmadie in Glasgow and Oxwellmains in Dunbar.

GMB Scotland organiser, Gary Cook, said: “HZI bosses took a month to respond to our serious concerns over the danger of social dumping at Millerhill, only to then treat the engineering construction unions and our elected councillors with utter contempt.

“If this response is a measure of the industry’s respect for employment rights and our politics then I’m afraid the sector is going down the drain. HZI are blatantly disregarding hard fought industry minimums that exist to ensure decent work and decent pay and they clearly don’t give two hoots what the Scottish Government’s fair work agenda says.

“The company which is making money from taxpayer funded contracts described the unions’ request for access to the site as ‘not required’. Their indifference towards the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government should be a source of major embarrassment to both.”

Unite Scotland officer, Scott Foley, added: “The fact that HZI refuse to directly answer the serious concerns raised within our submitted questions and the way they have essentially refused us access to the workforce, speaks volumes.

“This construction project like so many others is being built with public money and we believe that the public expect local jobs and decent terms and conditions for workers to form an intrinsic part of the procurement process – not social dumping and worker exploitation.

“The fact that HZI aren’t prepared to commit to this or provide evidence will concern all constituents of the local authorities that this Energy from Waste plant will serve.”