Workplace Report (November 2021)

Health & safety news

‘Union busting is causing accidents’

The Unite general union says a recent spate of accidents on a section of the HS2 tunnelling and track-laying construction project in London is down to “union busting tactics” by the joint venture company Costain/Skanska/Strabag.

The union reported several accidents over recent weeks including: clay falling from height, injuring a worker’s arm and resulting in a safety shutdown on the project; a lorry overturning into a ditch; and a hammer breaking a worker’s wrist.

Unite says the company is refusing to allow it to speak to workers during their breaks in its welfare facilities with “a resulting dearth of safety reps”. The union recently signed a significant access agreement with the joint venture company Align, comprising Bouygues, Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and Volker Fitzpatrick, covering workers on another key part of the HS2 development (see page 7). This is the second such agreement to be formally signed on the project, following confirmation earlier this year that Unite will have access to the workforce on the new Euston station being built by Mace/Dragados.

“Workers operating on the Costain/Skanska/Strabag joint venture will be rightly worried and concerned for their safety,” said Unite national officer Jerry Swain. “The fact no worker has been killed is simply a matter of luck. This project is crying out for union safety reps, who play a unique role in protecting workers and preventing accidents.”

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