Contractor and union reach landmark agreement on health PFIs that aims to stop bogus employment practices
M&E union Amicus has struck a deal with Skanska under which the contractor has guaranteed that only directly employed labour will be used on its medical projects, including the £600m St Bartholomew's hospital scheme in central London.

Skanska directors met union officials on Friday to finalise the agreement, which stipulates that all staff employed by Skanska subcontractors must be taxed at source under the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system.

It is understood the deal was reached after the intervention of the Treasury and NHS Executive, which both exerted pressure on the company.

An industry source said that Amicus had held a number of meetings with the NHS and the Treasury over the past few months to emphasise the negative effects of using construction firms that do not have directly employed staff.

The source said: "The government is keen that PFI hospital projects do not receive any further bad publicity – Whitehall wants workers on the projects to be employed properly and this line has been reflected in talks with Skanska."

Amicus construction official Jimmy Simms said that he was delighted to have reached an agreement with Skanska as this would lead to better training and a stable labour force.

There will be no rogue ‘composite companies’ or bogus self-employment

Amicus official Jimmy Simms

He said that it would also restrict the potential for abuse of employment practices. "There will be no rogue 'composite companies' or bogus self-employment," he said.

A composite company is a shell firm that pays workers as if they were directors rather than employees. It is widely seen as a tax loophole.

Simms said Skanska had agreed to adhere to Rule 17 under the Joint Industry Board agreement that stipulates contractors and subcontractors should only use directly employed staff.

A Skanska spokesperson said the company always ensured that its M&E contractors were employed directly, as far as reasonably practical.