Union says pay hike could be replicated across the £14.8bn project

Electricians, M&E engineers and plumbers working at the Whitechapel Crossrail Station are to receive a £4.44 an hour bonus for hitting “productivity” targets as contractors race to get work finished, in a move that could get replicated across the £14.8bn rail project.

Construction workers’ union Unite said it had agreed the deal with station contractor BBMV to pay workers an extra £867 a month linked to hitting project milestones which will be finalised with a review of the Crossrail scheme in December. However, it claimed the wider project, due to open in stages from this May onwards, was “beset with problems.”

Unite said in a statement it welcomed the agreement, which it said it hoped would be the first of many similar such deals. BBMV is a joint venture including Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Vinci, and Unite said it had already scheduled talks to discuss a similar scheme with Balfour Beatty and sub contractor VVB on the Woolwich Arsenal station site. However, it said other contractors had not yet been willing to have meaningful discussions on the issue.

Unite’s regional officer Guy Langston criticised Crossrail itself, claiming the client had not got involved with negotiations and had attempted to deliver the scheme overall on “the lowest rates of pay.”

The news comes amidst claims of large amounts of re-work on other station projects as Crossrail aims to hit staged completion dates throughout next year. Langston said: “Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Vinci are the only contractors on Crossrail willing to have meaningful negotiations with Unite on implementing a productivity scheme. Crossrail refused to get involved and effectively washed its hands of the whole process.

“The entire Crossrail project has been beset with problems, our members have renamed the project the ‘Hokey Cokey line’ as they continually fit out, only to remove work that has been wrongly designed. This has contributed to low morale on what is Europe’s largest rail infrastructure project because the client Crossrail has tried to deliver the scheme on the lowest rates of pay.”

A spokesperson for Crossrail said: “It has always been for individual contractors to determine and negotiate with their workforce about improving productivity in return for a bonus or other arrangement and that position remains. Construction workers and skilled trades on Crossrail are employed by the principal contractors and their supply chains not by Crossrail Limited.”

The client declined to directly address allegations about problems on other station schemes, but it maintains the project is on track to be delivered on time and within its £14.8bn budget.

The BBMV joint venture has been contacted for comment.