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The News Line: Feature UNITE DEMAND ‘IMMEDIATE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION’ INTO CARILLION
Carillion workers at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon during their strike action against Carillion bullying
THE OUTRAGE of a West Midlands NHS Trust now facing a massive bill of some £400 million has led to Unite, one of the main unions representing NHS staff, calling for an ‘immediate criminal investigation’ into NHS contractor and privateer Carillion – which collapsed last January

Unite, which is in fact the UK and Ireland’s largest trade union, pressed its case as follows: ‘The Midland Metropolitan Hospital was set to have been completed this year. ‘But due to initial delays, and the fact that the site has substantially deteriorated since work ceased when Carillion collapsed, there will be over a three-year delay in the project.

‘The original budget for the project was £350 million, of which Carillion had already received £205 million before its collapse. The £400 million bill faced by the trust, and ultimately paid for by the taxpayer, is to complete the hospital and also the cost of the work to reopen wards at City hospital which were due to be demolished.

‘In papers prepared for yesterday’s (4 December) board meeting of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Tony Lewis the chief executive has admitted that it will cost £400 million to complete the Midland Metropolitan hospital and keep the existing City hospital operational until 2022, when the new hospital is now due to become operational.

‘In papers prepared for yesterday’s board meeting of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Tony Lewis the chief executive has admitted that it will cost £400 million to complete the Midland Metropolitan hospital and keep the existing City hospital operational until 2022, when the new hospital is now due to become operational.

‘The Midland Metropolitan hospital was set to have been completed this year, but due to initial delays and the fact that the site has substantially deteriorated since work ceased when Carillion collapsed, there will be over a three-year delay in the project.

‘The original budget for the project was £350 million, of which Carillion had already received £205 million before its collapse. The £400 million bill faced by the trust, and ultimately paid for by the taxpayer, is to complete the hospital and also the cost of the work to reopen wards at City hospital which were due to be demolished.

Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett added: ‘These figures are truly staggering. It is outrageous that the taxpayer is going to have to pay more to get the project completed than the entire original budget.

‘In September, Unite called for an immediate criminal investigation into the directors and senior managers responsible for Carillion’s collapse and I am renewing that call, as the cost of the company’s recklessness continues to spiral.’

And Unite’s regional officer Su Lowe alleged and specifically warned: ‘Carillion’s directors distorted their accounts and continued to trade when the company was insolvent. Taxpayers are being forced to pay tens if not hundreds of millions to clear up the mess. If that is not criminal behaviour, it certainly should be.

‘In a desperate bid to keep treating patients the trust is being forced to reopen wards which have been closed and were due to become houses. This in itself is spending millions of pounds on what is at best a short term fix.’ Last month, Unite wrote to Tony Lewis seeking assurances that ‘measures would be put in place to ensure that when work does restart on the hospital construction workers are not exploited’.

Unite is also demanding that ‘industrial agreements governing pay and conditions are adhered to, local labour and suppliers are used, workers are directly employed, exploitative forms of employment such as umbrella companies are outlawed, and trade unions are both recognised and given full access to the site’.

• At the same time rail union RMT is warning of ‘escalating violence on Britain’s de-staffed railways this Christmas’ as figures show that offences have ‘more than doubled’ in the past two years. The RMT notes too that ‘since staffing numbers have now been hacked to the bone’, updated figures from Network Rail have revealed that ‘the number of violent offences fuelled by alcohol at Britain’s railway stations over the festive period has more than doubled in the past two years’.

It goes on to warn: ‘Today’s shocking statistics show that there were 189 more violent incidents between November 24th 2017 and January 2nd compared with the same period two years earlier, according to British Transport Police (BTP) data. ‘The BTP also confirm that violence is often directed at other passengers or station staff and frequently results in injuries and arrests.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash added: ‘These shocking figures show that violence is soaring out of control on Britain’s dangerous railways as we head towards the festive period. Those rail companies looking to axe station and train staff should take a look at these statistics, hang their heads in shame and reverse their plans immediately.

‘The move to create a faceless, de-staffed railway in the name of profit has created a toxic environment where our members too often end up as the punch bags as drunken thugs run rampage. ‘We need a publicly owned railway where security and safe staffing levels come before the profits of the greedy train operators.’

Meanwhile, firefighters in Tyne and Wear have revealed that documents – given to the fire authority for scrutiny prior to agreement on public consultation – contained not only ‘major mistakes’ but also plans massive cutbacks.

Brigade secretary Russ King warned: ‘Firefighters are absolutely shocked and dismayed at the lack of scrutiny that this document has been given by fire authority members. Any document which proposes massive cuts and changes to the fire and rescue service should be subjected to the upmost scrutiny.

‘We are deeply concerned that elected officials are sleep-walking into proposals which will cut the service and impact on the safety of the population. ‘We see little evidence of fire authority members behaving to the standard expected of them, which is to properly scrutinise the fire and rescue service, and to ensure the public gets the service which they need.’

At the same time a union representing cleaners, security guards and receptionists who work at the Ministry of Justice says it is considering legal action against the Lord Chancellor for discrimination as its members prepare for a three-day strike over pay.

Around 50 security guards and receptionists represented by the union UVW will stage a three-day strike in January. They will be joined by around 20 cleaners who went on strike for three days in August. The workers are demanding to be paid the London living wage of £10.55 an hour, and to have parity with civil servants over sick pay and annual leave allowances.

UVW has announced that it will also lodge a claim in the employment tribunal or High Court over the ministry’s outsourcing structure. The union argues that the ministry has breached its public sector equality duty, under the Equality Act 2010, because nearly all cleaners, security guards and receptionists are BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) or migrant workers.

UVW says it will coordinate its strike at the ministry with outsourced workers at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy who are members of the PCS union. The national minimum wage is currently £7.83 for workers aged over 25.
The London living wage is £10.55.

The ministry was questioned by Labour MP, Catherine West about how much the department pays staff inside and outside Greater London at a rate below the UK living wage, which is also referred to as the ‘real living wage’.
 
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