Socialist Worker

An Olympic event causing injuries in east London

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2145

Battle lines are being drawn at the Olympic construction site in east London. A deal between the TUC and the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) claiming to give unions influence in the building of the Olympics was announced last week.

Bosses are hoping that it will help them prevent strikes. The non-binding agreement calls on both sides to honour the national agreement for engineering construction workers.

Union representatives will be allowed to visit the site and recruit members. However, the agreement does not commit the ODA to ensure workers are paid the London Living Wage of £7.45 an hour. Instead, it will only be an 'important consideration'.

A number of construction unions had hoped that the agreement would encourage building contractors to directly employ their workforce. This would end the practice of bogus self-employment which allows employers to avoid paying tax and National Insurance.

The text of the agreement commits both sides to the 'ethos' of direct employment, but says agency and self-employed workers also have a role to play.

Many workers are also concerned about the implications of sub-contractors on health and safety.

Harry Sheridan was killed in December last year when an excavator bucket fell on him. He was a carpenter working at West Ham DLR station, which is being extended for the Olympics.

The bucket fell from a semi-automatic hitch on the excavator – a problem that has killed at least ten construction workers across the country in recent years.

The problem has become so bad that the Health and Safety Executive and manufacturers have agreed that no more semi-automatic hitches will be made. But nothing has been done about the thousands that are still being used every day.

There have been at least three serious accidents at the Olympic Park that have involved dumper trucks. Workers at the Olympics are set to protest over a range of issues on Wednesday 6 May.

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Tue 31 Mar 2009, 20:31 BST
Issue No. 2145
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