Unite urges thorough checks on workplaces which have cladding

Unite, the UK’s construction union, is urging thorough across-the-board checks on workplaces which have cladding after it was revealed the unfinished Royal Liverpool Hospital has been encased in flammable material which do not meet the current fire safety standards.

The hospital trust had sought assurances from the contractor Carillion, prior to the company’s collapse, the cladding on the new hospital met fire safety standards and were told it did. However, an independent review of the hospital found that at least some of the cladding did not meet safety standards and also exposed structural deficits regarding the concrete beams.

This is not the first time that a new hospital has been found to be fitted with flammable cladding. In July it was revealed that the Papworth Hospital in Cambridge being built by Skanska had to be delayed, as the cladding did not pass safety standards.

After last year’s Grenfell fire the government ordered safety checks of cladding on residential buildings, NHS properties and schools.

As a consequence Unite is contacting all of its safety reps and giving advice on how to ensure they are provided with clear evidence, if they have not already received it, that any cladding at their workplace is safe. If this is not the case then additional safety measures should be instigated to ensure the safety of workers and the general public, until the suspect cladding is removed.

Unite national health and safety adviser, Rob Miguel, said: “It is now clear that company assurances from employers and construction companies about the safety of cladding could be in question.

“Workers who were concerned last year will now be highly alarmed about safety at their workplace. Rather than assurances they need clear evidence that cladding is safe. Until then, employers need to introduce additional safety measures.”

The revelation about the cladding comes just days after it was revealed that because the Royal Liverpool Hospital will not be completed by September 30, 2018 the trust is entitled to cancel the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding scheme, under which the hospital is being built.

Last month the government agreed to directly finance the completion of the Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick West Midlands which has also been stalled since Carillion’s collapse in January.

Unite believes that the government should directly fund the completion of the Royal Liverpool Hospital and all PFI schemes should be scrapped.

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “The government has got to stop ducking the issue and commit to directly funding the Royal Liverpool Hospital project while also ensuring it is completed as quickly as feasible.

“Carillion’s demise has fully exposed the problems and weaknesses of the PFI scheme which now needs to be scrapped once and for all. PFI projects are expensive, undemocratic and damage pay, conditions and union rights.”

There is growing anger in Liverpool about the failure to open the Royal Liverpool Hospital. The project is now 18 months late and the latest revelations will further delay the project. There are additional concerns about health provision in Liverpool due to the poor condition of the existing Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool is also set for closure.