Unite, the UK’s largest union, has accused the government of failing to fully protect workers left in limbo following the collapse last month of Carillion.

This follows a Westminster Hall debate this week called by Eleanor Smith MP, into the TUPE (transfer of undertakings protection of employment regulations) provision for Carillion workers.

As the majority of the Carillion companies went into compulsory liquidation, the normal TUPE provisions which ensure that pay and conditions are protected, when workers are transferred between companies, do not apply.

However despite MPs from all sides of the House of Commons calling for workers, especially those on public sector contracts, to have their pay and conditions protected through a “voluntary TUPE arrangement,” Andrew Griffiths MP the junior minister at the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, declined to do so.

Instead Mr Griffiths merely said “wherever practical and possible” the working conditions of Carillion workers having their contracts transferred would not be on detrimental terms and conditions.

In winding up the debate Labour MP Eleanor Smith, said that with the jobs of 11,800 Carillion workers still hanging in the balance: “She was disappointed that the Government couldn’t assure me on TUPE protection.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said “Thousands of Carillion workers remain in limbo and while there have been plenty of warm words from government ministers that public sector contracts will be protected, there are still no assurances that the terms and conditions of the workers will be protected.

“MPs from all parties called on the government to introduce voluntary TUPE procedures to ensure that workers who were entirely blameless in Carillion’s collapse have their pay and conditions protected.

“It is to the government’s discredit that they have refused to introduce this minor and simple measure which would provide some reassurance to these workers.”

Construction behemoth Carillion have given the shock announcement that they are to go into liquidation, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Little is known about the details as yet, but according to the statement talks between the firm, lenders and government failed to reach an adequate solution for saving the second biggest construction company in the UK.

The company employs a total of 43,000 people around the world – 20,000 of which are located in the UK. It is not yet clear how these people will be affected, however, government have stated that they will continue to provide funding in order to maintain public services currently run by Carillion.

News of the liquidation will undoubtedly come as a shock to construction professionals, who in recent years have seen the firm involved in major projects such as HS2 and the delivery of schools and prisons. They are also the second biggest supplier of maintenance services to Network Rail, and they maintain 50,000 homes for the Ministry of Defence.

Where did it all go wrong?

In a BBC article, Carillion chairman Philip Green said “This is a very sad day for Carillion, for our colleagues, suppliers and customers that we have been proud to serve over many years.

“In recent days, however, we have been unable to secure the funding to support our business plan and it is therefore with the deepest regret that we have arrived at this decision.”

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, added “This really shakes public confidence in the ability of the private sector to deliver public services and infrastructure.”

“There needs to be a change in the mindset of many of many of these companies… if you’re actually doing a very substantial amount of business at taxpayers expense for the taxpayer, you’ve got to treat yourself much more as a brand of the public service not as a private company just there to enrich the shareholders and the directors.”

“Ironically, Whitehall tends to do contracts with companies that it always does contracts with, because that’s the safe thing to do – that’s the perception. A great many small and medium-sized companies feel excluded.”

Mick Cash, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, concluded “This is disastrous news for the workforce and disastrous news for transport and public services in Britain.

“RMT will be demanding urgent meetings with Network Rail and the train companies today with the objective of protecting our members jobs and pensions.

“The infrastructure and support works must be immediately taken in house with the workforce protected.”

According to BBC business editor Simon Jack, some of Carillion’s contracts will now be taken on by other firms whilst others could be renationalised once again.


More to follow.