By John Millington
CONSTRUCTION union Unite ramped up the pressure on Crossrail contractors today calling on the Transport Commissioner to investigate bosses who are alleged to have met representatives of blacklisting firm the Consulting Association.
Unite officials have said that they have continuing and serious concerns about how workers are being treated by contractors working on the Crossrail scheme which is Europe’s largest construction project.
In the letter to the Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy, Unite’s deputy regional secretary for the London and eastern region, Vince Passfield said that Transport for London (TfL) “must act speedily to ensure the project is free from the illegal practice of blacklisting.”
Mr Passfield said: “We have been assured by Crossrail that the project will provide training and apprentice opportunities, as well as direct employment in line with national agreements, all of which are recognised to contribute to good industrial relations.
“Imagine Unite’s horror in hearing that Crossrail contractors met with the Consulting Association, the organisation that compiled a blacklist of mainly construction operatives. The Consulting Association was raided in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s Office.”
He went on to express “shock” at learning that former industrial relations manager working on the project, Ron Barron had cross-checked job applicants against a blacklist run by the Consulting Association.
“Recently, the safety record of the Crossrail project has been brought into question, following the collapse of a hopper at Westbourne Park, west London,” he said.
“This incident closed two lines from Paddington Station and might easily have become a major disaster.
“Trade unions have a valid role and play a central role in supporting health and safety which is so crucial in the construction industry.”
But a Crossrail spokesman that they were “not aware of, and had seen no evidence of, blacklisting of any kind in connection with the Crossrail project.”
They promised however, if such evidence were to be presented to them, “firm, decisive and immediate action” would be taken against any blacklisting on the site.
“All our contractors are fully aware that blacklisting would result in an immediate breach of contract as well as being a criminal offence,” the spokesman added.
The Consulting Association was closed down in 2009 following enforcement action by the Information Commissioner, before the award of the first tunnelling and station contracts in December 2010 at the site.
Former Unite shop steward and electrician on the Crossrail project, Frank Morris claims he was targeted because of his trade union activities.
He was one of 28 workers who lost their jobs when contractor EIS had its contract was ended at Westbourne Park, by BFK, the consortium of contractors building Crossrail.
However Mr Morris believes he was specifically targeted for being the shop steward on the site.
“My boss (from EIS) gave me a letter stating that his company lost the tunnelling project because Bam Ferrovial Kier wanted to get rid of me,” he said.
Mr Morris has staged a long running campaign but fears for his and his family’s future.
“It is very difficult on me and my family – I have no income,” he added.
“I want me job back. But I am a trade unionist. My back is against the wall. I have nowhere else to go.”