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M25 maintenance workers protest over terms and conditions
M25 maintenance workers protested on 8 October outside Balfour Beatty offices in central London against attacks on terms and conditions. Unite's Malcolm Bonett explains the situation
Connect Plus Services (CPS) is five years into a lucrative 30-year contract for maintaining the motorway network on the M25 Orbital.
Some operatives maintain vehicles at the Dartford Depot and others carry out gritting in winter, trimming back the verges and carriageway improvements.
There is an Incident Support Unit (ISU) which clears up the damage following accidents. This is a particularly difficult task where ISU workers are exposed to fatalities, body parts and blood stained debris.
Originally, these workers were on county council terms and conditions around the network, which was tendered out to Carillion.
Connect Plus Services were then awarded the contract. Some of the work has been sub-contracted out to firms including Balfour Beatty.
Three years ago, in the BESNA terms and conditions dispute, electricians nationally were threatened with pay cuts of up to 35%. At that point, firms including Balfour Beatty caved in after activists and Unite got behind the campaign.
The same principle applies here. Why should it be the workers out there in all conditions day and night, being exposed to moving traffic, who are now having their terms and conditions eroded?
It appears no coincidence to me that Balfour Beatty has recently announced shareholder losses. It's trying to recoup money from those hardworking operatives at the sharp end.
Balfour Beatty contracts are inferior to ones that the original council employees have.
Carillion TUPE (transferred) contracts have better terms and conditions, therefore the CPS strategy with a two-tier workforce is to harmonise down.
Only way is up
Unite's position is to harmonise up and make sure all operatives on the network get sick pay from day one.
CPS has no recognition agreement with Unite. However, we are determined that Unite's voice will be heard and we could disrupt the network.
CPS is trying to drive these proposals through an 'employee forum' and sideline the unions.
The proposals mean a loss of four days' holiday and a horrendous shift pattern of four nights on, four nights off followed by four days on, four days off.
The unions want a 13-week shift pattern for work/life balance.
Unite's consultative ballot closed with a 96% vote in favour of a work to rule and selective strike action to win this issue. The next stage will be a full industrial action ballot.
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