Firms' failure to pay operatives in line with European Union Working Time Directive to result in tribunals.
Contractors on high-profile projects are facing hundreds of industrial tribunal hearings after failing to pay operatives the correct holiday pay over Christmas.

Jubilee Line Extension contractor Drake & Scull will be hit with 500 tribunal claims from workers. Millennium Dome contractor John Doyle and brickwork contractor Irvine Whitlock, which is working on the £100m Canary Riverside project in London Docklands, will also be affected.

In December, the Construction Confederation advised contractors to ensure that all operatives were paid the equivalent of their average weekly earnings during the two-week Christmas break in order to comply with the European Union's Working Time Directive.

However, a number of contractors ignored the advice and paid operatives the traditional industry flat rate, which usually amounts to about half of an operative's weekly wage.

We expect to submit over 500 industrial tribunal application forms on the JLE alone

AEEU steward

Construction unions have offered to back any employees who were not paid the full rate in industrial tribunals. These could take place as soon as March.

A steward at electrical engineering union AEEU said: "We expect to submit over 500 industrial tribunal application forms on the JLE alone. Each one will claim that Drake & Scull failed to pay the correct holiday pay." But Drake & Scull project director Chris Raven said: "We do not believe the directive required us to pay average pay. We paid in line with advice from the Electrical Contractors Association.

And Irvine Whitlock director Geoff Irvine said: "We informed our workers that they will be paid any additional money once the situation is clear." Jerry Swain, regional organiser for construction union UCATT, said the union expects to submit hundreds of applications over a number of sites in the London area.