On 10 January, Unite pulled out 80 of its Balfour Beatty electricians working on the Woolwich section of the Crossrail project, the first stages of which are due for completion by the end of 2018.
The main bone of contention is the company’s refusal to pay the four-week ‘finishing bonus’ customary on such long-term projects. The whole workforce in Woolwich is based outside London, so has had to organise accommodation in London for the duration of the lengthy project. The idea of the finishing bonus is to allow workers to give notice on their lodgings without suffering financial loss.
According to the Construction Index website, this action is the first ‘official’ strike to hit the Crossrail project in the eight years of its life, but in fact there have been a number of unofficial walkouts over blacklisting, pay and working conditions over the years.
In a move designed to spike the successful strike ballot, Balfour Beatty summarily dismissed 54 electricians in mid-December, among them a disproportionate number of shop stewards. In response, 150 electricians walked out, plus another 70 machine-operators.
Gerry Harvey, the Balfour Beatty manager who ordered the mass sackings, has previously been named in court as a blacklister. (Strike action hits Crossrail project, The Construction Index, 2 January 2018)