Construction unions Unite and the GMB have demanded that Balfour Beatty reverse its decision not to furlough workers at the TeesREP renewable energy site in Teesport, as well as at other sites across the country.
Balfour Beatty is insisting that redundancy consultations for more than 60 workers at the site will continue during the lockdown and that the staff are not eligible to receive 80 per cent of their wages under the government’s job retention scheme.
The building giant’s stated reason for this is that the redundancy consultations were planned before Covid19 shut down the country and that registering the workers would go against government eligibility guidance for the scheme.
The unions said Balfour Beatty’s excuse was ‘paper-thin’ and pointed to the actions of other major construction contractors, including Bilfinger and Altrad, that have furloughed workers whose redundancy consultations were scheduled to take place during the lockdown.
Unite national officer for construction Ian Woodland said: “Balfour Beatty must reverse its decision not to furlough workers at the TeesREP site, as well as those at the Crossrail site in London and elsewhere.
“Balfour Beatty’s excuse for casting these workers out onto the penury of the benefits system during a national crisis is paper-thin and is contradicted by the actions of other building firms such as Bilfinger and Altrad.
“At best Balfour Beatty’s actions are misdirected and heartless, at worst they point to a cynical financial calculation that the firm will not have to pay out advance wages for these workers while the government’s financial support comes through.”
GMB national officer Steve Kemp said: “Balfour Beatty needs to urgently re-think their decision – it flies in the face of any kind of fairness. Other construction companies have taken a totally different view on how to proceed in very similar circumstances.
“We urge Balfour Beatty to do the same – people’s livelihoods are at stake here. They must implement furlough instead of throwing their workforce on the proverbial scrapheap.”