HS2

02.04.19

HS2 workers win £1m in back pay after ‘underpayment scandal’

A HS2 contractor has agreed to back pay over £1m to hundreds of its construction workers after Unite claimed they were being “systematically denied” their entitled holiday and agreed overtime pay.

Last week it was reported that payslips from workers from Bowercross Construction, the labour supplier for the Costain Skanska Joint Venture (CSJV) working on the London Euston HS2 site, “revealed the denial of nationally agreed holiday entitlement and overtime rates.”

The Unite union said following a meeting with CSJV, the company has “committed to immediately begin paying the correct overtime rates and increase the holiday entitlement as set out in the ‘framework’ agreement.”

The HS2 joint venture is to back pay the affected workers who have been underpaid on the site, a bill which Unite estimates is in excess of £1m.

Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: “CSJV had no option once the scandal of the underpayments was revealed by Unite to immediately ensure the correct rates are paid.

“Questions remain about who knew and for how long; workers were being underpaid and exploited.”

Under the relevant national agreement, workers are entitled to 30 days of holiday per year, but the HS2 workers were instead only receiving 28 days.

The payslips given to Unite also showed that workers were only receiving their standard rate of pay for overtime instead of the ‘time and a half’ they are entitled to in the CSJV agreement.

It was estimated the incorrect overtime rates meant workers were on average being underpaid by over £100 a week.

Following the new agreement, Unite said “serious issues” remain on the project, such as CSJV still refusing Unite access to the canteen to speak to workers due to health and safety risks. However, the joint venture said Unite had been offered access.

Last autumn, the union also found that Bowercross Construction were not paying for workers correct accident and death benefit cover, but the company has since assured that the issue has been resolved.

A spokesperson for the CSJV said it uses approved suppliers to provide labour to some of its sites on the HS2 enabling workers, and these workers are paid via PAYE and receive full employment rights.

The spokesperson stated: “We have looked into Unite’s report concerning the industry agreement rate for overtime and weekend duty, as well as holiday entitlement. The company concerned has been instructed to remedy this with immediate effect so that we meet our required standards.”

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