UK biggest construction union fights union-busting at high-speed railway project

UNITE, the United Kingdom’s biggest construction union, is fighting to secure union access to all HS2 sites from London to Birmingham to ensure that workers receive fair renumeration and enjoy healthy and safe working environments.


HS2 is a new high-speed railway project linking up London, the Midlands, the North and Scotland serving over 25 stations, including eight of Britain's 10 largest cities and connecting around 30 million people. 

The union said that while a number of joint venture (JV) companies involved in the project have already signed union access agreements with them, not all have complied. One of these is Skanska-Costain-Strabag JV, which is touted as the biggest of the joint venture construction companies hindering legitimate trade union access to construction workers building the Euston tunnels of the HS2 project.

UNITE responded by launching an anti-union busting campaign. A demonstration was organised on 6th of  August outside the Skanska-Costain-Strabag JV site at Euston, London. Trade unionists from across the country joined the demonstration to protest the consortium’s flouting of the HS2 agreement by not refusing to allowing union officials access to the site.

According to UNITE National Officer for Construction Jerry Swain, the union has discovered that workers employed at the Skanska-Costain-Strabag JV HS2 sites have been robbed of overtime rates, death and serious injury cover and paid holidays. He also said that the workers were paid through payroll companies.

“Now they are breaking the HS2 agreement by not allowing Unite officials’ meaningful access to the site – we will continue to protest at the unacceptable behavior of this multinational joint venture until they realise that agreements freely entered into can’t be so easily discarded,” Swain said. 

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), a global union representing 12 million workers worldwide, threw its full support for UNITE. “Trade unions have the right to access workplaces to reach out to workers, check on their working conditions and ensure that their rights are fully protected and recognised. Denial of access is denial of labour rights. BWI fully supports UNITE’s campaign to stop union-busting and is ready to act with our UK brothers and sisters,” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said. 

Sign up to support UNITE’s fight for union access to worksites and against union-busting. Go here.