Socialist Worker

Skirmishes in battle for more rights at Crossrail

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2533

A Picket line at the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail site

A Picket line at the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail site


Construction workers on one of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects downed tools after bosses tried to move a union rep off site.

Sixty workers at the Crossrail site on Tottenham Court Road, London, occupied the canteen last Wednesday. And the dispute has escalated into an unofficial stoppage.

Laing O’Rourke and its subsidiary Crown House refused to negotiate with unions and won’t recognise the Unite union steward Terry Wilson.

Managers announced that Terry would be transferred off Crossrail altogether—prompting the protest and now strike from workers.

Bosses attempted to transfer Terry after he attended a protest at Crossrail over the bonus payments.

According to Terry, “I was elected by over 60 lads. It’s on the back of the protest over getting the second tier payment.

“They want to transfer me completely off Crossrail. It’s an attempt to chop the head off the snake and hope everyone else crumbles. But this is an attack on everyone and an attack on the union.”

Union activists say they have been subjected to bullying, intimidation and surveillance at various Crossrail sites.

Workers voted to return to work on Tuesday morning.

Blacklist

Laing O’Rourke was also one of a raft of major building firms forced to apologise in May for its role in an illegal blacklist that denied work to thousands of trade unionists.

Workers across the project are angry over Crossrail’s refusal to stick to the national agreement, which allows for additional “second tier” bonus productivity payments.

Andrew Wolstenholme, chief executive of Crossrail, part of Transport for London (TfL), earned £910,000 in 2015, including £359,000 in “performance-related pay”.

Yet Crossrail bosses have told workers to go back to the contractors, and the contractors say Crossrail is responsible for the payments.

The Employment Relations Manager at Crown House is former Unite national officer Brian Boyd.

Some Crossrail bosses appeared on the back foot after they rescinded letters threatening workers who demonstrated with disciplinaries.

Demonstration

Workers employed by contractor Balfour Beatty at the Whitechapel site had received letters summoning them to conduct hearings after they left work to attend a demonstration at Crossrail last month.

But after they called a meeting to discuss the attack, bosses swiftly withdrew it.

One electrician told Socialist Worker, “The rank and file will stand by victimised stewards and further unofficial action will be forthcoming.

“There will be no rest now for Crossrail and its principal contractors.”

There is a prospect of a ballot across Crossrail over the second tier in the new Year.

Concerted militant action will be needed against the Crossrail bosses.


A man who was working on Crossrail when a 30-ton concrete slab shattered his leg has been awarded a six-figure sum.

Liam Jennings was helping a crane driver on a construction site at Canning Town when he was hit by the concrete block being swung by the vehicle.

Metal pins were inserted to piece together his shattered hip. He also suffered nerve damage below the knee, which caused him to lose feeling and movement in his foot. Surgery to attempt to give him some feeling back was unsuccessful.


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