Ewa Jasiewicz | 26.10.2004 02:10 | Workers' Movements
Walk-outs and wildcat strikes are expected as more workers stand up to the Laing O’Rourke contrick. Read on for how to get involved…
Strike Action Brewing Over the Laing O’Rourke ‘Contrick’
Construction workers up and down the UK are refusing to sign a controversial new pay and conditions deal drawn up by Laing O’Rourke this month. 200 workers at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) Contract 105 threatened to walk out last week after finding out the contents of a new working agreement drawn up by Laing O’Rourke, the main contractor on the £311m project and builder of UK spy-base GCHQ in Cheltenham. The contract is being referred to by Laing O’Rourke workers as ‘The Contrick’. Here’s why:
• Both PAYE and CIS workers face having their salaries cut as shifts and overtime rates are reduced. Those earning between £90 and £180 a day will see their pay slashed in half. • Pay will be subsidised by bonuses, such as a £25 travel wage, but only at the company’s discretion. • Holiday pay can be cut by £20 a day for every worker. • Pay can be docked if workers do not complete a full Monday-to-Friday shift. • Workers who are off sick will have to provide a medical certificate, even for one day’s absence
(Source The Contract Journal 25/10/04)
There has been no ballot of workers or negotiations regarding the contract. Workers report having been split into small groups and asked to sign the contract, without seeing it in full first, behind closed doors by management.
They have been told that they have six weeks to sign the agreement or face the sack.
So far, just 14 of the 400 O’Rourke workers have signed the contract at the CTRL site.
Construction Union UCATT has sided with management in urging workers to sign the contract. At the time of going to press it has still made no attempt to ballot its members on it.
‘If we’re strong and stick together we can stop this’
Last Wednesday over 100 workers attended a meeting called by RMT member and Join Sites Committee activist Steve Hedley. Workers from other Laing O’Rourke sites – Canary Wharf, Terminal 5 and Newham hospital (a PFI project) – attended and expressed their dissent against the contract. Hedley blasted the contract for its focus on ‘discretionary bonuses’ and shift changes decided at the whim of management.
Quoted in trade paper Construction News last week he said ‘What the hell is a discretionary bonus? How can your union sign up to something that your boss may decide whether or not he is going to pay? Its fine to go back on the cards, but not like this. If we’re strong and act together we can stop this. We are the ones who are doing the job’. Some UCATT members and unaligned workers said they’d join the GMB union as an alternative to UCATT. Steve has slammed UCATT last week for working against the interests of the workers it is supposed to represent. ‘UCATT should be ashamed of themselves – they have become part of the Laing O’Rourkes machinery – industrial relations policemen against the workforce’.
The latest demands from workers who are refusing to sign are:
• NO CUT IN TAKE HOME PAY
• NO COMPLICATED DISCRETIONARY BONUS SCHEME
• FULL HOLIDAY PAY (BASED ON AVERAGE TAKE HOME)
• FULL SICK PAY
• PENSION SCHEME
• REDUNDANCY PAY
• EFFECTIVE START DATE FOR EVERYBODY SHOULD BE WHEN THEY FIRST STARTED WORKING FOR LAING O’ROURKES NOT WHEN WE SIGN THE CONTRACT
We demand no cut in pay. We all have bills, rent, mortgages to pay – we need guaranteed money not a promise of it if the site agent thinks we deserve it.
GMB Rep Barred
Tensions soared last week when GMB rep Steve Kelly was thrown out of the CTRL site. His presence had been explicitly requested by workers there. He had been seeking a meeting with management to discuss the contract. Kelly was barred from entering the site the following morning, in clear contravention of national agreements in the construction industry as well as ILO conventions and domestic law which allows workers unfettered access to, and the freedom to chose their own representatives.
The GMB has advised its members not to sign the contract until they have been allowed to see it in full.
Casualised Contract Workers – easy to hire, easy to fire
Steve was sacked by contractors Westinghouse, which employs casual workers on construction projects, after a shunt box worth £800 piece went missing during the shift he was working.
Steve, who was team leader, immediately informed his supervisor of the loss. Steve is an agency worker. The agency he works for, MPI, have agreed to meet the cost of the lost item as they are liable. However, Westing House have demanded that Steve pay the money from his own pocket or be placed on a blacklist. He has already been immediately dismissed from the site and lost over two week’s wages because of this vindictive behaviour.
Over 100 workers on the CTRL site walked out when they heard of Steve’s sacking. They held a meeting outside the site on how best to support him. On the morning of Friday October 8th, traffic was brought to a complete standstill in King’s Cross as a picket-line halted all deliveries to the CTRL. Backed up cars, vans, concrete wagons, steel deliveries and heavy plant caused gridlock in York Way and surrounding areas from 7am till 8.30am. All vehicles entering and leaving the site were stopped and hundreds of workers from the site showed solidarity with the action in support of Steve. Since then Steve has been offered £2500 to stop causing trouble. He has refused.
STOP PRESS: Trouble-maker Bob Crow stirs up workers at CTRL! RMT General Secretary will address a meeting in the park opposite the CTRL site, on Tuesday October 26th (tomorrow). Where? Phoenix Road, Euston/Kings Cross nearest tubes,NW1. 200 workers are expected to attend.
The Unrest is Spreading!.....
London, Oxford, Berkshire, Kent, Sussex, Manchester, Liverpool...
Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Kings Cross, London – 100 have already walked off the job in support of sacked trade union activist Steve Hedley earlier this month, pickets have halted all traffic into the site and 200 have threatened wildcat strike action over the ‘contrick’
Terminal 5, Heathrow, London – A significant number of construction workers have refused to sign. The controversial £1.5bn project has been targeted by eco-defence activists in the past.
Related links: http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/10/278503.html
Also: 40 men working for Select Plant (part of the Laing O’Rourke group) at Heathrow have refused to sign the contrick
Canary Wharf, East London – reconstructing a business centre devastated by an IRA bomb in 1994
Newham Hospital, Newham, East London - £35 million redevelopment through Equion plc (a division of Laing PLC) under the government’s Private Finance Initiative (Privatisation with a new name). Workers from the site attended an organising meeting last week and are boycotting the contrick http://www.laing.com/news_523.htm
Ascot Racecourse Redevelopment Scheme, Berkshire – workers on the £160m redevelopment scheme have refused to sign
Gatwick airport, Sussex – 200 men ‘on an office job’ there (no further details of where exactly) have refused to sign
Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Kent sites – Mirroring the rejection of the contract by their counterparts at Kings Cross
John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford – A Carillion contract (Worth £125m) Laing O’Rourke is carrying out piling, M&E (Mechanical and Electrical) and structural work. Sections of the workfore here are also boycotting the contrick
Police stations & facilities for the Greater Manchester Police Authority, Manchester – Construction news has reported unrest at the company’s £99m project to build 16 new police stations http://www.laing.com/news_650.htm
The Paradise Street Scheme, Liverpool – Laing O’Rourke are facing problems transfering existing employees from other jobs onto their contrick on the £450m Paradise Street Scheme http://www.liverpoolpsda.co.uk/construction/
If workers start getting sacked for refusing the contrick, which Laing O’Rourke has threatened, ballot or no ballot, walk-outs are expected
CLEAN UP THE BUILDING INDUSTRY! LAING O’ROURKE – STOP EXPLOITING WORKERS! SOLIDARITY WITH WORKERS AGAINST THE CONTRICK!
What can we do?
Come to the Contract Update Meeting on Wednesday October 27th (This Wednesday) 7pm at the Cock Tavern, off Phoenix Street, Euston, NW1
Support your local picket-lines when they start springing up. Solidarity is strength.
Notes: Equion plc appear to be a Home Office favourite. They have been contracted to take on ‘from planning and funding through to design, construction and operation’ the following:
17 new PFI police stations & facilities for the Greater Manchester Police Authority
South East London Police Stations for the Metropolitan Police
The Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Centre for the Metropolitan Police
The Ministry of Defence Main Building refurbishment in Whitehall
What Laing O’Rourke has to say about itself – from www.building.co.uk
Turnover 2002/3: £1.74 billion Turnover 2003/4:
The Laing O’Rourke Group has the vision to be the company of first choice for all stakeholders and will change the poor image of construction worldwide. With leanness and agility we will adopt processes to compete with world leading businesses. Laing O’Rourke is a company who employ qualified, talented and motivated staff who have the “can do” attitude and are innovative in their thinking with over 1000 staff and 4300 direct employees. With health and safety in mind for all employees we have a zero tolerance for accidents, with the aim of reducing our current ‘Accident Frequency Rate’ of 0.40 which is well below the industry average of 1.5. We embrace new concrete technology and innovation, as an example are using self-compacting concrete on a 40-storey building to decrease the floor cycle times and improve efficiency.
We are the only specialist concrete contractor to win the ‘Construct Award For Innovation & Best Practice’ twice. As one of the first in the industry to be awarded BSENISO9001: 2000 for our Quality Management System we offer a quality product and service to our clients. As a company we aim to work with our clients and partners at an early stage to help produce the most efficient and cost-effective solutions with the help of our in-house design team and the latest 3-Dimensional modelling technology, this ensures a regular stream of repeat business. Concrete forms an integral part of most of our projects in all the main markets including offices, hotels, roads and airports to name a few. There is an estimated 1 million cu m of concrete being placed on the T5 project alone.
In summary, the Laing O’Rourke vision is to be a world leader and world-class in the concrete industry. Our innovative approach and proven track record and continued expansion in turnover and profitability we indeed deserve the accolade “Best Concrete Contractor”. Laing O’Rourke can be found at: Head office: Bridge Place Anchor Boulevard, Admirals Park, Crossways Dartford, Kent DA2 6SN United Kingdom Tel. +44 (0)1322 296200 www.laingorourke.com
Don’t fall for the Laing O’Rourkes “contrick”
The tax-man is the driving force behind the new contract. We’re all going to end up on the cards whether we like it or not. The question is whether we go on PAYE with a cut in money or with the same take home pay as now. The new contract cuts our basic pay and introduces a complicated bonus system that can be withheld at management discretion. No one denies this – not even the company.
The company is trying every trick to con us into accepting the new “contrick”. We are being called into small meetings where UCATT union officials and company managers telling us to sign up to the deal or else we will be down the road. UCATT should be ashamed of themselves – they have become part of the Laing O’Rourkes machinery – industrial relations policemen against the workforce.
Against all the national agreements in the construction industry, Laing O’Rourkes are trying to ban GMB union officials from the CTRL site. What are they scared of? A workplace meeting that might elect reps & upset the applecart?
The contract has been agreed between UCATT and Laing O’Rourkes as some kind of national sweetheart deal. The shuttering chippies, concrete finishers, groundworkers, plant operators and labourers who do the actual work on Laing O’Rourkes jobs have not been part of the negotiations. But it is us who will suffer because of it. We have not given our consent to the deal. We demand no cut in pay. We all have bills, rent, mortgages to pay – we need guaranteed money not a promise of it if the site agent thinks we deserve it.
There should be a national ballot of all Laing O’Rourkes workers to accept or reject the deal
If there is going to be a new contract, then we demand: • NO CUT IN TAKE HOME PAY • NO COMPLICATED DISCRETIONARY BONUS SCHEME • FULL HOLIDAY PAY (BASED ON AVERAGE TAKE HOME) • FULL SICK PAY • PENSION SCHEME • REDUNDANCY PAY • EFFECTIVE START DATE FOR EVERYBODY SHOULD BE WHEN THEY FIRST STARTED WORKING FOR LAING O’ROURKES NOT WHEN WE SIGN THE CONTRACT
STICK TOGETHER We have already had one walk-out and held meetings off site, we are all over the newspapers. Workers on Canary Wharf, Terminal 5 and Ascot are all up in arms. We are already in talks with them. This deal needs to be re-negotiated NOW. They can try their bully-boy tactics all they like but if we stick together across this job and all the other projects, we can get this con-trick overturned.
CONTRACT UPDATE MEETING 7pm Wed 27th October at the cock tavern, phoenix rd [off eversholt street] Euston nw1