Wildcat action brewing over the Laing O'Rourke 'contrick'

Workers employed by construction giant Laing O'Rourke are refusing the company's new pay and conditions deal.

Submitted by Steven. on October 26, 2004

Under the new contract or 'contrick' as it has been renamed by workers, pay will be halved, bonuses will be decided by management, a day off must be planned 40 days in advance and holiday pay could be cut by £20 per day for each worker. Management has told workers they will be sacked if they do not sign. Construction union UCATT (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) has told workers to sign the contract despite there having been no ballot and no full viewing of the contract itself. GMB (General Municipal and Boilermakers Union) has also been barred off the site, in contravention of construction industry agreements.

Workers at the following sites have all refused to sign and potentially face the sack: Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Kings Cross and Kent sites; Canary Wharf redevelopment scheme; Newham Hospital, London; Terminal 5, Heathrow, Middlesex; Ascot Racecourse Redevelopment Scheme, Berkshire; Paradise Street Development, Liverpool; Gatwick Airport, Sussex; John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford; and construction projects for Police stations & facilities for the Greater Manchester Police Authority, Manchester.

Walk-outs and wildcat strikes are expected as more workers stand up to the Laing O'Rourke contrick.

More Info

Construction workers up and down the UK are refusing to sign a controversial new pay and conditions deal drawn up by Laing O'Rourke this month. 200 workers at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) Contract 105 threatened to walk out last week after finding out the contents of a new working agreement drawn up by Laing O'Rourke, the main contractor on the £311m project and builder of UK spy-base GCHQ in Cheltenham. The contract is being referred to by Laing O'Rourke workers as 'The Contrick'. Here's why:

- Both PAYE and CIS workers face having their salaries cut as shifts and overtime rates are reduced. Those earning between £90 and £180 a day will see their pay slashed in half.
- Pay will be subsidised by bonuses, such as a £25 travel wage, but only at the company's discretion.
- Holiday pay can be cut by £20 a day for every worker.
- Pay can be docked if workers do not complete a full Monday-to-Friday shift.
- Workers who are off sick will have to provide a medical certificate, even for one day's absence
(Source The Contract Journal 25/10/05)

There has been no ballot of workers or negotiations regarding the contract. Workers report having been split into small groups and asked to sign the contract, without seeing it in full first, behind closed doors by management.

They have been told that they have six weeks to sign the agreement or face the sack. So far, just 14 of the 400 O'Rourke workers have signed the contract at the CTRL site Construction Union UCAAT has sided with management in urging workers to sign the contract. At the time of going to press it has still made no attempt to ballot its members on it.

"If we're strong and stick together we can stop this"

Last Wednesday over 100 workers attended a meeting called by RMT member and Join Sites Committee activist Steve Hedley. Workers from other Laing O'Rourke sites - Canary Wharf, Terminal 5 and Newham hospital (a PFI project) - attended and expressed their dissent against the contract. Hedley blasted the contract for its focus on 'discretionary bonuses' and shift changes decided at the whim of management.

Quoted in trade paper Construction News last week he said "What the hell is a discretionary bonus? How can your union sign up to something that your boss may decide whether or not he is going to pay? It's fine to go back on the cards, but not like this. If we're strong and act together we can stop this. We are the ones who are doing the job." Some UCATT members and unaligned workers said they'd join the GMB union as an alternative to UCATT. Steve has slammed UCAAT last week for working against the interests of the workers it is supposed to represent. "UCATT should be ashamed of themselves - they have become part of the Laing O'Rourkes machinery - industrial relations policemen against the workforce".


We demand no cut in pay. We all have bills, rent, mortgages to pay - we need guaranteed money not a promise of it if the site agent thinks we deserve it.

GMB Rep Barred

Tensions soared last week when GMB rep Steve Kelly was thrown out of the CTRL site. His presence had been explicitly requested by workers there. He had been seeking a meeting with management to discuss the contract. Kelly was barred from entering the site the following morning, in clear contravention of national agreements in the construction industry as well as ILO (International Labour Organisation) conventions and domestic law which allows workers unfettered access to, and the freedom to chose their own representatives.

The GMB has advised its members not to sign the contract until they have been allowed to see it in full.

Casualised Contract Workers - easy to hire, easy to fire

Steve was sacked by contractors Westing House, which employs casual workers on construction projects, after a shunt box worth £800 piece went missing during the shift he was working.
Steve, who was team leader, immediately informed his supervisor of the loss. Steve is an agency worker. The agency he works for, MPI, have agreed to meet the cost of the lost item as they are liable. However, Westing House have demanded that Steve pay the money from his own pocket or be placed on a blacklist. He has already been immediately dismissed from the site and lost over two week's wages because of this vindictive behaviour.

Over 100 workers on the CTRL site walked out when they heard of Steve's sacking. They held a meeting outside the site on how best to support him. On the morning of Friday October 8th, traffic was brought to a complete standstill in King's Cross as a picket-line halted all deliveries to the CTRL. Backed up cars, vans, concrete wagons, steel deliveries and heavy plant caused gridlock in York Way and surrounding areas from 7am till 8.30am. All vehicles entering and leaving the site were stopped and hundreds of workers from the site showed solidarity with the action in support of Steve. Since then Steve has been offered £2500 to stop causing trouble. He has refused.

What Next?

STOP PRESS: Trouble-maker Bob Crow stirs up workers at CTRL! RMT General Secretary will address a meeting in the park opposite the CTRL site, on Tuesday October 26th. Where? Phoenix Road, Euston/Kings Cross nearest tubes,NW1. 200 workers are expected to attend.

The Unrest is Spreading!.....
London, Oxford, Berkshire, Kent, Sussex, Manchester, Liverpool, Channel Tunnel Rail Link,

Kings Cross, London - 100 have already walked off the job in support of sacked trade union activist Steve Hedley earlier this month, pickets have halted all traffic into the site and 200 have threatened wildcat strike action over the 'contrick'

Terminal 5, Heathrow, London – A significant number of construction workers have refused to sign. The controversial £1.5bn project has been targeted by eco-defence activists in the past.

Related links: http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/10/278503.html

Also: 40 men working for Select Plant (part of the Laing O'Rourke group) at Heathrow have refused to sign the contrick
Canary Wharf, East London – reconstructing a business centre devastated by an IRA bomb in 1994
Newham Hospital, Newham, East London - £35 million redevelopment through Equion plc (a division of Laing PLC) under the government's Private Finance Initiative (Privatisation with a new name). Workers from the site attended an organising meeting last week and are boycotting the contrick http://www.laing.com/news_523.htm
Ascot Racecourse Redevelopment Scheme, Berkshire – workers on the £160m redevelopment scheme have refused to sign
Gatwick airport, Sussex – 200 men 'on an office job' there (no further details of where exactly) have refused to sign
Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Kent sites – Mirroring the rejection of the contract by their counterparts at Kings Cross
John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford – A Carillion contract (Worth £125m) Laing O'Rourke is carrying out piling, M&E (Mechanical and Electrical) and structural work. Sections of the workfore here are also boycotting the contrick
Police stations & facilities for the Greater Manchester Police Authority, Manchester – Construction news has reported unrest at the company's £99m project to build 16 new police stations http://www.laing.com/news_650.htm
The Paradise Street Scheme, Liverpool – Laing O'Rourke are facing problems transfering existing employees from other jobs onto their contrick on the £450m Paradise Street Scheme http://www.liverpoolpsda.co.uk/construction/

If workers start getting sacked for refusing the contrick, which Laing O'Rourke has threatened, ballot or no ballot, walk-outs are expected


What can we do?
Come to the Contract Update Meeting on Wednesday October 27th (This Wednesday) 7pm at the Cock Tavern, off Phoenix Street, Euston, NW1
Support your local picket-lines when they start springing up. Solidarity is strength.


What Laing O'Rourke has to say about itself - from www.building.co.uk

Laing O'Rourke
Turnover 2002/3: £1.74 billion Turnover 2003/4:
The Laing O'Rourke Group has the vision to be the company of first choice for all stakeholders and will change the poor image of construction worldwide. With leanness and agility we will adopt processes to compete with world leading businesses.

Laing O'Rourke is a company who employ qualified, talented and motivated staff who have the "can do" attitude and are innovative in their thinking with over 1000 staff and 4300 direct employees. With health and safety in mind for all employees we have a zero tolerance for accidents, with the aim of reducing our current 'Accident Frequency Rate' of 0.40 which is well below the industry average of 1.5. We embrace new concrete technology and innovation, as an example are using self-compacting concrete on a 40-storey building to decrease the floor cycle times and improve efficiency.

We are the only specialist concrete contractor to win the 'Construct Award For Innovation & Best Practice' twice. As one of the first in the industry to be awarded BSENISO9001: 2000 for our Quality Management System we offer a quality product and service to our clients.
As a company we aim to work with our clients and partners at an early stage to help produce the most efficient and cost-effective solutions with the help of our in-house design team and the latest 3-Dimensional modelling technology, this ensures a regular stream of repeat business.
Concrete forms an integral part of most of our projects in all the main markets including offices, hotels, roads and airports to name a few. There is an estimated 1 million cu m of concrete being placed on the T5 project alone. In summary, the Laing O'Rourke vision is to be a world leader and world-class in the concrete industry. Our innovative approach and proven track record and continued expansion in turnover and profitability we indeed deserve the accolade "Best Concrete Contractor".

Laing O'Rourke can be found at:
Head office:
Bridge Place Anchor Boulevard, Admirals Park, Crossways Dartford, Kent DA2 6SN United Kingdom Tel. +44 (0)1322 296200 www.laingorourke.com