Unite members begin series of 24-hour stoppages from Monday

traffic jamMaintenance and emergency and incident support workers on the M25 are set to take industrial action in their battle to win a fair wage, following the failure of talks between Unite and the employer Connect Plus Services.

With attempts last week to resolve the dispute by recognition not succeeding, the 170 workers, who are responsible for traffic movement along the 117 mile orbital and for maintaining its central reservation, will take 24 hours of strike action starting on midnight on Monday.

The one day strike will be repeated every week thereafter, and the workers – who haven’t had a pay rise in four years – will also be working to rule which could lead to delays in clearing accidents, gritting the motorway and repairs.

According to Unite, the certain disruption this will bring to one of Europe’s busiest motorways could be averted if the employers meet demands for a £30,000 basic wage, day one sick pay and full recognition of the union by the employer.

Unite is concerned that the employer Connect Plus Services – which consists of three major contractors, Balfour Beatty, Atkins and Egis – is employing workers on a variety of contracts, leaving some on inferior terms such as no entitlement to sick pay for the first three days of ill health.

Unite officer for the construction sector Malcolm Bonnett said that this dispute can easily be solved: “This is a lucrative 25 year contract to maintain the M25 which will make Connect Plus Services £7 million operating surplus each year. There is plenty of room in it for the company to pocket healthy profits while paying decent wages and harmonising the workers’ terms.

“These workers are out in all weathers, working long hours -sometimes as long as 50 plus hours a week – in extremely hazardous conditions facing fast-moving traffic. These are the workers who have to clear up after accidents, which is extremely distressing work. They risk their lives to keep the orbital running and the 200,000 cars on it every day moving. By any measure they deserve a fair wage, which is all they are asking for, paid for from company profits, not pinched from the wage packets of the workers.

“So we are appealing to the employers, sit down with us, work with the union, get this dispute sorted and keep the M25 moving.”

In a ballot for industrial action, which concluded on Monday 26 January, the workers voted by 97% in favour of a work to rule and by 97% to take one day of strike action every week until their claims are met.

The average wage across the workforce at present is £25,000. In October 2014, Balfour Beatty announced that its new CEO Leo Quinn would be paid a basic wage of £800,000, with pension contributions and bonuses on top of that, meaning that he earns at least 32 times more than the average CPS worker.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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