Clock is ticking as laying off of entire steel workforce threatens to throw Wembley Stadium project into chaos
Wembley contractor Multiplex was holding emergency talks with steel contractor Hollandia on Wednesday after the project's entire steel workforce was threatened with redundancy in a row over pay.
Two hundred steelworkers employed by Hollandia subcontractor Fast Track and 50 scaffolders this week received notice that they will be made redundant from Tuesday. Fast Track has told union representatives it has not received "adequate funds" from Hollandia to continue paying the workers.
Crisis talks between Multiplex and Hollandia were taking place as Building went to press in a bid to avert the lay offs, which would throw the final weeks of the steel programme into chaos.
Building understands Hollandia is in dispute with Multiplex over the value of its work on the stadium. Project sources have speculated that Multiplex may be forced to step in and aid the subcontractors financially.
Both the GMB and Amicus unions, which represent the affected steelworkers and scaffolders, have advised their workers to continue working. GMB official Tom Kelly said: "We don't want our people used as pawns in a financial dispute between contractors."
In a statement, Multiplex said: "This is an issue between Hollandia and Fast Track Services. We're looking to Hollandia for continuity of work and we've just met with the shop stewards who have given Multiplex assurances that they will continue to work while Hollandia discusses the issues with Fast Track."
Multiplex was due to update the Australian stock exchange on its progress on the project today. As Building went to press, it was expected that the contractor would give notice of potential delays on the roof and on the drainage systems.
As revealed in Building on 17 February, remedial works are being carried out on the project's sewerage system after pipes were found to have buckled. Multiplex has so far denied reports that this could cause a seven-month delay to the project.
The steelwork row is the second big dispute involving Fast Track and Hollandia on the site. In August 2004, 240 workers were sacked after refusing to accept changes when their employment was transferred to the companies from the site's original steel contractor Cleveland Bridge.
Neither Fast Track nor Hollandia was unavailable for comment.