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Keep union discord away from Olympics

COMMENT

ANOTHER row has erupted over the 2012 Olympics as we draw to the end of a turbulent year for London's sporting showpiece.

It's not more fears over the budget this time but problems with the industrial relations agreement on the job.

Trade unions and the CLM consortium have fallen out over plans for direct employment, with the unions refusing to budge over their demands for all workers to be on the books.

The move towards PAYE is generally seen as a positive thing for the industry but it would be a shame to see it derail industrial relations harmony on such an important project.

CLM has made a written pledge to enforce direct employment and contractors must get its permission for any self-employed workers to get a start on the Olympics.

That is over and above the commitment to PAYE on virtually any other job in the country and should be seen as a positive move.

Laing O'Rourke is part of CLM and has been at the forefront of the move towards direct employment, with thousands of workers on its books.

The firm is keen to spread the PAYE gospel after being undercut on other jobs by firms persisting with self-employed workers.

It would seem strange if it did not take the chance to insist that contractors employ best practice on the Olympics.

The whole row seems to be over one phrase in the agreement and has become embroiled in inter-union politics.

The games have had a big enough financial kicking already without the industrial relations structure imploding.

The unions could be the major loser in this because CLM will simply go ahead and treat the Olympics as any other job - leaving other contractors to wonder whether they need special deals on major jobs at all.

Let's hope they see sense and sign the deal.