[UK] £1million back-pay win for HS2 workers

The construction union Unite has secured a pledge from Costain and Skanska - HS2’s joint venture partners - to give back-pay to workers at the Euston site, Construction Enquirer reports.

This commitment settles an ongoing dispute over holiday entitlement and overtime pay rates. Labour-only supplier Bowercross Construction was under scrutiny for failing to correctly pay approximately 200 workers.

Unite obtained a number of payslips from workers, proving their suspicions that the project framework agreement was not being observed. Unions and HS2 had signed the agreement yet workers were underpaid by more than £100 per week.

A spokesperson for Costain Skanska joint venture said, “Costain Skanska JV uses approved suppliers to provide labour to some of our sites on the HS2 enabling works programme. The workers in question are paid via PAYE and receive full employment rights, which include a minimum of the London Living Wage, EU holiday and sick pay and welfare benefits.

“We have looked into Unite’s report concerning the industry agreement rate for overtime and weekend duty, as well as holiday entitlement. The company concerned has been instructed to remedy this with immediate effect so that we meet our required standards.”

They continued, “CSJV remains keen to maintain a working dialogue with Unite to ensure that its members’ views are considered and any concerns can be addressed swiftly.

“We have offered Unite access to site inductions where they can recruit members, as well as a suitable meeting room for recruitment and member engagement purposes so that people working on our sites can choose how to spend their break times.”

In a prior clash between unions and BCL and CSJV in autumn 2018, Unite found BCL was not paying the £1.49 weekly accident and death benefit cover fee for each worker. When challenged CSJV reportedly told Unite the matter was resolved and a £60,000 audit of its subcontractors had confirmed everything was in order.

Jerry Swain - Unite national officer - said, “CSJV had no option once the scandal of the underpayments was revealed by Unite to immediately ensure the correct rates are paid. Questions remain about who knew and for how long; workers were being underpaid and exploited.”

He added, “The commitment to not only pay the correct rates but also ensures that everyone who has been underpaid will receive the correct back pay, demonstrated the value of unions.”