Union says construction workers in pay limbo over funeral

The government has declared Monday 19th September 2022 to be a national holiday to mark the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II. However, it has also said that it is up to employers to decide whether to allow their employees to have the day off.

Both the Construction Industry Joint Council (the industrial relations forum) and the Construction Leadership Council (the industry/government forum) have issued their guidance on the issue, both confirming that thee is no requirement for sites to close, other than where working might be impractical – in Westminster, for example.

Unite proposed to the CIJC that an additional day’s bank holiday be agreed. The employer’s side of the council disagreed, Unite says.

In a statement the employers said: “Taking all relevant factors that apply into account, it will be for each business/employer to determine how they will view the day, and whether time off, paid or unpaid, will be given.”

Unite has already received an email from a major joint venture on HS2 indicating that it does not require its contractors to pay workers holiday pay on the day of the funeral unless additional bank holidays, such as the Jubilee, are covered in their agreements.

According to the trades union, the decision not to honour the bank holiday marks a significant departure for the CIJC, which primarily covers workers in civil engineering and the biblical building trades. Previously it has honoured all additional bank holidays. The CIJC has blamed a lack of warning about the date of the funeral for its decision.

The decision by the CIJC not to agree one additional day’s paid public holiday, to allow workers to pay their respects, is at odds with almost all other construction industry agreements, Unite says. For examples the NAECI agreement (mechanical engineering) and both parts of the Joint Industry Board agreement (electricians and plumbing) have agreed to honour the additional paid public holiday.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Following pressure from Unite, workers on major construction projects such as Hinkley Point and the Silvertown tunnel are being paid for the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral. These employers have taken the correct decision. It is to say the least inexcusable that the CIJC has not followed suit.”

The employers’ side of the CIJC is made up of individuals chosen by various construction trade federations including Build UK, which represent major contractors, the Home Builders Federation, Painting & Decorating Association, Scottish Building Federation, National Federation of Roofing Contractors, National Access & Scaffolding Confederation and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA).

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “The CIJC has abdicated its responsibility and left thousands of construction workers in limbo, not knowing if they are required to work or if they will be paid.

“This is a hugely disrespectful act to the Queen and the royal family. These CIJC employers federations have brought shame on the construction sector disrespected the royal family and ignored the mood of the nation.

“The cost of paying a worker an additional bank holiday equates to just seven minutes pay for every year that the Queen loyally served our country, it is peanuts for these construction employers.

“The construction trade federations and their members should be hanging their collective heads in shame. The federations now need to take a long hard look at who they have representing them. It is clear they need to appoint representatives who have a grasp of what is taking place rather than simply sending messengers. Who have failed the industry and the nation.”

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