Crossrail documents reveal ‘lack of welfare’ for workers on site
Workers helping to build certain sections of Crossrail’s extensive tunnels have faced volatile, cramped conditions and physical and mental exhaustion, internal documents released by the construction union Ucatt have revealed.
An email chain sent in September between Crossrail’s main contractor, the ATC consortium, and Crossrail bosses has revealed worrying problems regarding the construction of the rail line, especially on the Fisher Street site, highlighting a “lack of/no welfare in the tunnel” and staff having to spend miles walking to the toilet, with Crossrail apparently also monitoring protestors.
These are the latest in a string of claims about poor welfare standards relating to Crossrail, with the Health and Safety Executive announcing a few weeks ago that three contractors are set to face prosecution over three alleged breaches of safety on site.
Jerry Swain, regional secretary for Ucatt’s London and south east region, said: “Our members have told us that they are working until they are physically exhausted and have to undertake tasks which are beyond their skill levels.
“This would be disgusting on any project but this is the flagship public sector project in London. It seems because the workers are underground their health and welfare is out of mind.”
The emails stated that only one turnstile was being used for entering and exiting Crossrail’s Fisher Street site, creating delays of 20 minutes, and that workers on site were perceived to be “mentally and physically exhausted”.
Other emails obtained by Ucatt appear to suggest that Crossrail monitored a protest about workers’ welfare on 29 September with a staff member at the protest sending in regular updates, leading to concerns that protestors would potentially be blacklisted.
ATC said that the issues raised in the emails date back to September of this year and have now been addressed. An ATC spokesperson added that the consortium was working with Crossrail to provide “a safe working environment” for its staff.
“This is a priority for us. We are working on a complex engineering and construction project which, at times, presents logistical constraints and challenges. Through an open dialogue with colleagues we have taken action to address and resolve challenges as they have arisen,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Crossrail stated that all its contractors are required to adhere to health and safety legislation, adding that all its sites “have welfare and toilet facilities which includes the provision of chemical toilets below ground where required”.
However, an early day motion lodged by MPs in parliament last month suggested that problems are still ongoing. Dated 22 November, the motion highlighted “totally substandard welfare facilities” and workers being forced to work until they are “physically exhausted”. Crossrail has not yet responded to these fresh accusations.
Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.