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.”

Unite, the UK’s largest construction union, is calling for root and branch reforms of employment rights after new figures demonstrated bogus self-employment in construction is out of control.

A Freedom of Information request by Unite has revealed that in 2016/17 at least 1.076 million construction workers were paid via the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), an eight per cent increase on the figure of 12 months ago when 992,973 were paid via CIS. In total 47 per cent of the entire construction workforce is now paid via CIS.

The sharp rise in workers operating via CIS demonstrates that the government’s hopes of reducing construction bogus self-employment has failed. In 2014 the government introduced measures that barred construction workers operating via engagers (employment agencies and payroll companies) from being self-employed.

CIS is the stand alone tax system for construction workers. Workers paid via the scheme are normally officially classified as self-employed although the nature of their engagement means that the vast majority are bogusly self-employed.

The bogusly self-employed have all the employment characteristics of an employee but are denied even the most basic employment rights such as holiday and sick pay and can be instantly dismissed without warning.

The principal beneficiaries of bogus self-employment are employers who do not pay employers’ national insurance contributions of 13.8 per cent and don’t have to pay employee benefits such as holiday pay.

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary, of Unite said “These figures demonstrate that bogus self-employment in construction is out of control. Employers are simply ignoring the rules in order to line their pockets and deny workers their rights.”

The government’s 2014 reforms led to a huge increase in workers being paid via umbrella companies, which results in the worker having to pay both employers’ and employees’ national insurance contributions as well as a plethora of other deductions from their wages. The government has previously conservatively estimated there are 430,000 workers being paid via umbrella companies, the majority of whom work in construction.

The government’s much heralded Taylor Review, while calling for it to be clearer to “distinguish” between workers and self-employed workers fails to address how existing Treasury policies are creating bogus self-employment and causing worker exploitation.

A recent survey by the Joint Industry Board (JIB), that sets the standards for employment, welfare, and apprentice training in the electrical contracting industry, revealed that 84 per cent of electricians want to be directly employed, rather than employed via an agency in order to receive full employment rights, paid holidays and benefits.

Gail Cartmail added “We have huge numbers of construction workers being routinely exploited via the government’s own tax scheme and via umbrella companies and yet the Taylor Review has ducked these issues.

“Taylor talks about his seven principles for fair and decent work which includes workplace training and the health and wellbeing of workers but while the real employer can continue to divest themselves of their workforce and have no responsibility for them, his principles are nothing but warm words.

“The only way that workers will be treated fairly and decently is by introducing clear rules which ensure that workers are either genuinely self-employed or paid by a standard PAYE method. Without such a reform productivity in construction will remain low, accidents and ill health will be high and the industry will fail to train sufficient numbers of apprentices.”

“The recent survey by the JIB destroys the myth that construction workers want the flexibility to operate via agencies or be self-employed. What workers want is to do know they are going to receive a steady wage and have the security of regular employment.”

Unite, the UK’s largest construction union, has begun balloting its members at HTC Wolffkran for strike action in a dispute over pay.

Unite has taken the ‘regrettable’ decision to seek a mandate from its members for strike action after the company refused to hold fresh talks about pay leaving members with no alternative.

If as expected workers vote in favour of strikes they will begin later this summer and are set to create chaos across the industry.

Previous pay talks collapsed when the company refused to increase its pay offer beyond three per cent with a commitment of bringing holidays in line with industry minimums. HTC Wolffkran negotiators also undermined their own position when they stated they would only countenance a two year pay deal, when a one year deal was what had previously been discussed. The company’s final offer was for a three per cent increase and an additional days holiday this year and the same again next year.

The pay offer is a cut in real terms as the retail price index is currently 3.7 per cent and expected to increase. Members are increasingly unhappy that their pay has not recovered in real terms compared to what workers were receiving in 2008.

Workers will begin to receive their ballot papers from Wednesday 19 July and the ballot will close on Monday 4 August.

If strike action goes ahead it will severely affect major contractors and construction projects in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds. High profile projects that will be affected include: the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, Greenwich Peninsula, Elephant and Castle redevelopment, the Midland Metropolitan Hospital and the Sheffield Retail Quarter.

Jerry Swain Unite’s acting national officer for construction said “This strike ballot is taken very much as a last resort and is entirely a result of HTC Wolffkran failing to put forward a pay offer that meets our members’ expectations and its refusal to return to the negotiating table.

“The ball remains in HTC Wolffkran’s court if it wants to avoid strike action it needs to re-open negotiations and table a realistic pay offer.

“Without an improved offer contractors need to brace themselves for major disruption as sites grind to a halt and projects are delayed.”