HS2 and TUC Framework Agreement Launch and signing. Simon Kirby (CEO, HS2) and Frances O'Grady (General Secretary, TUC) sign the agreement. Held at HS2 in Euston, former Temperance Hospital in Euston. 6th April 2016.
HS2-TUC partnership: A major opportunity for workers, industry and passengers alike
HS2 is the biggest and most complex infrastructure project the UK has seen for generations. Understandably, it is also one of the most hotly debated and those responsible for delivering the new high-speed railway have to get it absolutely right. The project has to maximise the benefits of high speed rail while taking full responsibility for the impact on the environment, communities and businesses and it has to follow through on the pledges to rebalance the economy, to act as an agent for regeneration and job creation, and to solve the existing network’s capacity constraints.
No one person, organisation or body is more critical to the success of HS2 than the workforce that will build it. And that’s why everyone involved in HS2 has a responsibility to that workforce and must be committed to upholding the highest standards in every aspect of employment; from health, safety and well-being to skills training and development; from diversity, equality and inclusion to sustainability and supply chain management.
HS2 will create 2,000 apprenticeships and 25,000 jobs at the peak of construction of both phases. These are massive benefits but if HS2 is to maximise its economic and social potential it must also lead the way in employment standards.
A framework agreement signed this week between HS2 Ltd and the TUC is the first step in this journey.
The agreement will be enshrined in how contracts for HS2’s construction and operation are tendered and hard-wired throughout the HS2 supply chain. Everyone involved in constructing the railway, whether laying track, designing viaducts or talking to communities, must live and breathe the HS2 values of respect, integrity, safety and leadership. The TUC also fully supports these values and the role trade unions will play in embedding them across the project.
The country needs and expects this project to be delivered on time and on budget. Early trade union engagement is key to ensuring this happens. The people who will build this railway must have a strong voice – they also have an integral role to play in the innovation that will be at the heart of HS2. As part of this agreement, HS2 is committed to encouraging its suppliers to work in partnership with trade unions and acknowledge their crucial role in employee relations.
HS2 will skill a generation. Working with the trade union movement and business and industry groups, and the new National College for High Speed Rail, HS2 will strive to ensure that generation is significantly more diverse than those that have gone before it, with technical skills and employment opportunities to create fulfilling, lasting careers.
While the project will place an unprecedented demand for new jobs and skills it also represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the face of the infrastructure workforce. Currently, just 4% of rail engineers are women. In an age when women make up around half of solicitors and the majority of GPs, this does not reflect well on the rail industry. Through joint working on development and inclusion matters, that can change, and it must.
The workforce that builds HS2 must mirror modern society. That means more women, more minorities and more young people. At the same time, those who are already on their way to having the skills needed to construct the railway must be treated in a fair, open and transparent way. The construction industry often gives the impression of excessive working hours, false self-employment and zero hours contracts. That, too, must change.
Employees must have the opportunity to develop their skills and progress in their careers. HS2 aims to be a high-performing, innovative organisation. One that provides the best value for money and applies the best in worldwide design and construction techniques. It cannot do that without an effective workforce and for employees to be at the top of their game, they have to feel valued, respected, safe and be engaged.
Constructive and honest industrial relations is crucial to the successful delivery of HS2 not just once construction is underway but also during the planning stage. That’s why this agreement has been signed now, around a year away from when building work is due to begin. We hope and are confident it will play its role not only in HS2 but also act as an exemplar in the delivery of future projects.