HS2 safety fears

Serious HS2 safety failings a result of union busting tactics

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Unite has blamed a recent spate of serious accidents on the HS2 tunnelling and track laying project in London, on a refusal to allow the union to speak to workers and a resulting dearth of safety reps.

The accidents have occurred on the section of the project which is being built by the joint venture company Costain/Skanska/Strabag. Unlike other sections of the project, the joint venture company has refused to allow Unite to freely speak to workers during their breaks in its welfare facilities.

The latest accident occurred earlier this week when a worker suffered arm injuries after clay fell from height onto them, this resulted in a safety shutdown on the project.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said, “Workers operating on the Costain/Skanska/Strabag joint venture, will be rightly worried and concerned for their safety. 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,” Swain added. “The fact that the site does not have safety reps is a direct result of the union busting tactics of Costain/Skanska/Strabag.”

“If HS2 and the joint venture company are serious about improving safety they need to immediately end union busting and allow Unite to organise workers and elect safety reps.”

In recent weeks Unite understands there have been several other potentially serious accidents. A lorry overturned into a ditch, a skill saw blade came off its mooring and shot across the site, a hammer broke a worker’s wrist and a digger bucket hit a worker’s foot.

Several of these incidents were judged to be so serious that they resulted in safety shutdowns, creating delays on the project.

Due to the excessive hours that the majority of workers undertake on the site, the union busting tactics of Costain/Skanska/Strabag, has severely restricted union organisation on the project and resulted in no union safety reps being elected.

Fully trained union safety reps pay a crucial role in improving safety. Critically, workers concerned about safety know that they can speak to them about their concerns without fear of reprisal. They also have access to union support and can access separate information not supplied by the company, which is also very valuable in helping them fulfil their role.

Unite held a successful, well attended, demonstration at the Euston part of the Costain/Skanska/Strabag joint project in August, to protest at the ongoing union busting.

By Barckley Sumner

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