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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Recognition battles: bosses spurn ‘turkey truce’

by New Worker correspondent

TUESDAY MORNING saw Unite, the construction union, hold a demonstration at the High Speed Railway construction site at London’s Euston Station. Their target was the HS2 Costain/Skanska Joint Venture (CSJV) site. The union accuses CSJV management of “acting like Scrooge and spurning Unite’s offer of a ‘Turkey truce’”.

The demonstration came after Unite wrote to the senior management of CSJV last month and made the offer of ceasing all demonstrations at the site in December as a gesture of goodwill in return for all the workers on the site receiving a voucher of £25 in order to buy a turkey.

The voucher could have served as a good-will gesture to the workforce and created the right atmosphere to allow both parties to resolve the problems that exist on the site. The greatest concern of workers is the failure of the CSJV to apply the appropriate national agreements, which has resulted in some workers losing up to £100 a week in overtime payments.

One gripe of the demonstrators was that Costain and Skanska had denied Unite access to their members and the wider workforce during their breaks in the workplace canteen, which is common practice on most sites.

Despite the lack of access Unite has recruited heavily on the site. Its activities have uncovered a host of workplace issues, including the underpayment of both overtime and holidays, the use of umbrella companies, which is prohibited, and the failure to pay for workers to have the correct accident and death benefit cover.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “As Christmas nears Costain and Skanska have revealed that the spirit of Scrooge is alive and well.

“Costain and Skanska’s failure to pay the correct overtime rates has cost workers on the site thousands.” He said that as a result protests will continue into next year, before adding that: “Both Costain and Skanska are infamous in the blacklisting scandal and their current behaviour shows they learnt little or nothing and continue with their union busting activities.”