Laing O’Rourke’s appointment to build Royal Liverpool hospital must not result in worker exploitation and mistreatment

Unite, the UK construction union, has warned that the announcement today (Friday 26 October) that Laing O’Rourke has been appointed as the managing contractor to complete the troubled Royal Liverpool hospital must not result in workers being mistreated and unions being barred from the site.

Laing O’Rourke has a reputation for denying unions fair access to its sites unless the client expressly stipulates that requirement as part of the contract.

Laing O’Rourke was previously responsible for building the new Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool and its actions on that site led to such concerns that a hearing into its practices was held by the Scottish affairs select committee as part of its inquiry into blacklisting.

Following the announcement of Laing O’Rourke’s appointment, Unite will now apply greater pressure to the client, the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University NHS Trust, to establish clear rules that will ensure proper union recognition and fair treatment of the workforce.

Unite have already written to Adrian Kehoe the trust’s chief executive seeking guarantees that his organisation will ensure contractors:

  • Adhere to national industrial agreements that govern pay and conditions
  • Use local labour and suppliers
  • Workers are directly employed (not employed under a form of bogus self-employment)
  • Exploitative forms of employment such as umbrella companies are outlawed
  • Trade unions are recognised and are given proper access to the workforce.

A meeting to discuss Unite’s concerns has been arranged for Tuesday 13 November and the union is now urging that nothing is signed or agreed prior to that meeting.

Unite’s concerns have been supported by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and the Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram. They have given their public backing in a video.

Unite regional officer Colin Carr said:

“Unite is committed to ensuring that the Royal Liverpool hospital is completed as quickly as possible but that must not be at the expense of workers rights’ or to the detriment of their health and safety.

“Providing there is clear leadership from the Trust, Unite looks forward to working together with Laing O’Rourke to ensure that workers are properly treated and the mistakes made on previous hospital contracts in Liverpool are not repeated.

“However, given the battle there has been to get the project restarted and for it to become a directly funded public sector project with the cancellation of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), Unite will not stand idly by and allow construction workers on the Royal Liverpool to be exploited or for unions to be denied access.”