Request has provoked disquiet among staff in north told to work on firm’s London jobs citing work-life balance issues

Laing O’Rourke has admitted some staff may need to work further from home under a shake-up of the company which is seeing 200 jobs go at the firm’s UK construction business.

Building understands plans to send some of the firm’s staff in the north, especially those based in and around Manchester, down to its jobs in London, including the mixed-use Olympia development, has caused disquiet.

The firm’s big job in Manchester, called the Factory, is due to officially wrap up this September with seats going in ahead of a soft opening in the next few weeks, while hopes of the contractor transferring staff a few miles across the city to Manchester City’s Etihad stadium expansion have ended after the pair failed to agree a price.


O’Rourke’s head office in Dartford is expected to see job cuts but the losses will be UK-wide

One source said: “There’s a big crew up north and O’Rourke is looking to send them down to Olympia or the Whiteley [the shopping centre being turned into another mixed-use job]. Some staff are being told they’ve got to go but people have reset the clock in terms of work-life balance since the pandemic.”

An O’Rourke spokesperson said: “Like any constructor, we are also managing the ebb and flow of people moving from projects that are nearing completion to new ones that are starting up. This may require some people to work further from home but it will mean the opposite for others and these opportunities are discussed with people on an individual basis.”

>> Rivals on alert after talks between Laing O’Rourke and Manchester City over £300m Etihad expansion end

>> It’s hard to let go: Laing O’Rourke and the problem with succession

>> Has Ray O’Rourke’s successor been under his nose all along?

The firm confirmed that up to 200 jobs were at risk despite suggestions the number could be higher. She added: “We have begun consulting on proposals to reduce the number of roles in UK business by up to 200. This is necessary because the market has weakened and we need to reduce our operating costs.”

One source said O’Rourke had missed out on the Manchester City job because its risk procedures were now too tight in the wake of huge losses overseas in Canada and Australia.

O’Rourke built the original stadium, when it was known as Laing more than 20 years ago, and carried out work to expand the ground to its current 54,000 capacity nearly nine years ago.

“That [City] job was theirs but they’ve burnt their fingers so much overseas that their risk procedure is at an extreme. They’re pretty intransigent on price. Contractors should be paid for risk but you have to take that risk in the first place.”

In its last set of accounts, the firm’s Australia business racked up a near £76m bill on one scheme which helped send pre-tax profit tumbling to just £2.7m on turnover of £2.9bn in the year to March 2022.

The company said that cumulative losses on a PFI hospital scheme in Canada had gone up again – to more than £219m – meaning that between them the two jobs, including lawyers’ fees, have cost the company more than £300m.