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Workers in vote against new O'Rourke contracts

NEWS - Enraged employees attack new pay and conditions deal at London meeting as UK workforce unites

ANGER over Laing O'Rourke's controversial new pay and conditions deal is spreading across the UK, with hundreds of workers set against signing up to it.

Large sections of the workforce from several of the firm's London sites, as well as major schemes in Liverpool, Oxford and Manchester, are refusing to sign.

Nearly 100 workers from Laing O'Rourke's Channel Tunnel Rail Link Contract 105 scheme at King's Cross attacked the contract at a mass meeting in a north London pub on Monday night.

The meeting was chaired by Steve Hedley, an agency worker whose removal from the job sparked unofficial site protests two weeks ago.

Mr Hedley blasted the contract for its 'discretionary' bonuses, shift times subject to change at the whim of management and holiday pay based on the basic 39hour 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 angry attendees rounded on construction union Ucatt's leaders for failing to consult on the terms of the deal. One said: 'Why did Ucatt sign up to this without talking to the workforce first?'

Several Ucatt members said they were considering joining general union GMB.

Workers chose four provisional spokesmen ahead of formal elections to appoint shop stewards for the site.

GMB official Steve Kelly, who was also present, said he would be seeking an urgent meeting with the site management.

Workers from other London sites including T5, Canary Wharf and Newham hospital also attended.

Workers on jobs across the rest of the country have also voiced serious concerns over the new terms and conditions.

Sections of the workforce are not signing their contracts on jobs such as Carillion's £125 million John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where Laing O'Rourke is carrying out piling, M&E and structural work.

Sources said that nearly 200 men on an office job at Gatwick airport have yet to sign up to the deal, while 40 men working for Select Plant at Heathrow will raise concerns with the company in November.

Unrest has also surfaced on the company's £99 million project to build 16 new police stations in Manchester.

There are also understood to be teething problems with plans to transfer existing employees from other jobs onto the new contracts at Liverpool's biggest building job, the £450 million Paradise Street scheme.

A Laing O'Rourke spokesman said that he did not know how many of the workforce had signed up to the new deal and declined to comment on the dispute.