GMB hits out at exclusion from talks between employer and UCATT over plan to directly employ 6000 workers

The GMB union is pushing for talks with Laing O’Rourke over the contractor’s plan to directly employ more than 6000 of its workers who are currently on short-term contracts.

The move comes after more than 100 staff on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project at King’s Cross voted to reject the firm’s proposals.

Under Laing O’Rourke’s plan, all workers would be given a lifelong learning programme and full employment rights.

The GMB is understood to be frustrated that Laing O’Rourke is talking to UCATT about the proposed changes to workers’ contracts and has excluded other unions from negotiations.

Phil Davies, the GMB’s national construction officer, is writing to Alan Ritchie, UCATT boss, and Bob Blackman, the T&G’s construction officer, to press for talks between Laing O’Rourke and all three unions.

One GMB insider said the union had been disappointed to learn about Laing O’Rourke’s talks with UCATT through the press. He said: “There are GMB members within the company and certain things arising from the Laing proposals that members are not happy with and need representation on.”

The GMB insider said it had four shop stewards on site at the CTRL project and that the stewards would be passing on workers’ disapproval to the union’s national officials.

The insider added: “The advice to the members is to not sign any contracts until they have been looked at by a union representative. The workforce has problems with bonus payments, lodge allowances, and working time procedures.”

Dissatisfaction among workers has been made worse by differences in the terms and conditions of O’Rourke workers and those who came to the firm when it bought John Laing.

The source said: “Ray O’Rourke is trying to harmonise the contracts of his staff, but he is meeting resistance from workers who want to remain flexible and not on the cards.”

Laing O’Rourke set up a task group in September to put the plans into action.

Laing O’Rourke was unavailable for comment.