Unite, the construction union, is stepping up its campaign to ensure that when work restarts on the Midland Metropolitan hospital in Sandwell, West Midlands, the workforce are treated decently and not exploited.
The hospital is desperately needed, as the existing hospitals are no longer fit for purpose for both staff and patients. The project has been stalled since the main contractor Carillion collapsed in January; the delay has led to the half-completed building substantially deteriorating.
The hospital was originally due to become operational this month but with the local NHS Trust having not yet appointed a new main contractor it will now not be completed until at least 2022.
Unite has written to Toby Lewis, chief executive of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, setting out what is needed to ensure that workers are treated fairly and decently when work fully restarts on the project.
Unite is seeking that any contractor appointed to the project is required to adhere to national industrial agreements that govern pay and conditions; use local labour and suppliers; workers are directly employed (not employed under a form of bogus self-employment); exploitative forms of employment such as umbrella companies are outlawed; and trade unions are recognised and are given proper access to the workforce.
Unite has won the support for its demands from local council leaders and local politicians including , Ian Ward leader of Birmingham council and Pete Lowe former leader of Dudley council and Labour’s candidate for Stourbridge.
Unite regional officer Su Lowe said, “Local residents desperately need a new hospital which must become operational as early as possible but this must not be at the expense of the construction workers who will undertake this vitally needed work.
“Exploitation can only be prevented and fair treatment guaranteed by recognising industrial agreements, guaranteeing direct employment and allowing unions proper access to the workforce,” she added.
“Unless workers are treated fairly and decently there is likely to be further problems with the construction of this site, which will create even more delays, causing even greater misery for patients and staff.”