Exclusive: Allegations of serious safety breaches made by electrician in employment tribunal
London’s Crossrail project and its contractors have been accused in court of a string of serious safety breaches by a worker who claims to have been blacklisted while working on the £15bn project.
In an employment tribunal claim obtained by Building, electrician Frank Morris alleges tunnelling workers, including himself, were sidelined or dismissed for raising significant safety issues on the scheme - Europe’s largest construction project.
Morris alleges this culminated in the dismissal last September of himself and 26 other workers employed by Electrical Installations Services (EIS), a labour subcontractor of Crossrail’s western tunnels contractor BFK - a joint venture comprising Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial and Kier.
The news comes as the Unite union - which is funding Morris’ legal action - launched a lobbying campaign against Crossrail, accusing it of neglecting workers’ rights and failing to properly investigate links between itself and now defunct blacklisting firm The Consulting Association.
Morris’ claim, which has been lodged at the Central London Employment Tribunal, is against EIS, BFK and Crossrail Ltd, and alleges that the Unite shop steward was blacklisted on the project. The claim alleges that Morris was removed from his current duties and told to work in a cabin in which he was isolated from other workers after he told BFK in July that one of Crossrail’s tunnel boring machines had been overloaded with more than 20 workers onboard - above “what was normally considered safe”.
[Morris is] wrong to claim that he was laid off or removed from a crossrail site for raising safety concerns
In addition, Morris was told by a BFK manager that he would not be allowed to investigate safety matters in future, the claim states.
The claim also alleges that fellow EIS worker Gary Garget was removed from site last August and later dismissed by BFK after he took pictures of and complained about “a serious safety issue, in which scaffolding equipment had been dropped onto high voltage cable”.
Observers believe Morris’ tribunal is a test case because it uses anti-blacklisting legislation introduced in 2010 to target firms that are not the claimant’s employer.
In its defence documents, Crossrail says it was not Morris’ employer and “denies that it unfairly dismissed the claimant, whether as alleged or at all”. It also says Morris had failed to submit his claim in the three months following his dismissal as required.
BFK declined to comment, referring all inquiries to Crossrail. According to Morris’ claim, Electrical Installations Services has now gone into liquidation.
A spokesperson for the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said it has investigated a number of Crossrail safety incidents including the collapse of a hopper in Paddington last October and a cable strike incident in Holborn in December.
The spokesperson said the HSE “will continue to work with the client to ensure that health and safety standards are maintained to a high standard.”
A Crossrail spokesperson said Morris was “wrong to claim that he was laid off or removed from a Crossrail site for raising safety concerns”. The spokesperson said Morris was made redundant by EIS “as the work EIS were carrying out to commission the first two tunnel boring machines at Westbourne Park had completed with tunnelling under way”.
The case continues.