UCATT challenges London Mayor to support construction safety

Construction union UCATT are calling for a meeting with London Mayor Boris Johnson after he refused to answer whether he would support the direct employment of construction workers, in order to reduce deaths and injuries.

Fiona Twycross, a Labour member of the London Assembly, recently asked Mr Johnson: “Does the Mayor agree that the fact construction workers were directly employed in delivering London 2012 contributed to making the 2012 sites safer for workers? If so, what will he do to ensure that lessons are learned about increased safety and included in the planning of future publically funded projects in London and promoted in privately funding schemes?”

Despite London being the first ever Olympic Games to have been constructed without a single construction fatality, Mr Johnson refused to answer the question directly.

Jerry Swain, UCATT Regional Secretary for London and the South East, said: “Sites where workers are directly employed are safer. Direct employment and proper engagement with trade unions about safety was the primary reason why London delivered a safe Olympics. Boris Johnson should not try to ignore those lessons through misdirection and weasel words.”

Sites where workers are directly employed rather than falsely self-employed are safer because workers are better organised, safety laws are more likely to be properly observed and there is a stronger likelihood of independent safety reps working on sites.

Concerns about construction safety in London come at a sensitive time. In the last fortnight there were two construction fatalities in London. In Putney a man fell to his death, while in Tottenham a building collapse also resulted in a fatality.

UCATT are now writing to Mr Johnson seeking a meeting about construction safety and asking for his support in ensuring that future public sector contracts in the capital specify direct employment and that private sector contracts are also strongly encouraged to follow the same model.

Mr Swain, added: “I hope that Mr Johnson will put aside partisan differences in order to properly discuss issues concerning construction safety. Given the large amount of construction work in the capital, it is imperative the Mayor does everything in his power to ensure safety.”

Notes to Editors: Mr Johnson’s response was as follows. The ODA should be congratulated for its exemplary safety record during construction of the Olympic and Paralympic venues. I'm sure that many health and safety lessons will be learned by the UK construction industry, whether privately or publically funded projects. To this end, the ODA has developed a Learning Legacy project, with the aim to share the knowledge and lessons learned from the London 2012 construction project. This will hopefully raise the bar within the construction sector. More information can be found at: http://learninglegacy.london2012.com/themes/health-and-safety/index.php

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