London’s Crossrail: What the hell is going on?

If you happen to be a Londoner who hates that daily packed-out tube commute of sweaty bodies unable to control the fallout of their own perspiration and coffee tainted smoker’s breath, then you’re in luck, because hopefully this is about to become a thing of the past, or at least for a couple of years it might be, thanks to the development of National Rail’s new Crossrail service.

At 73 miles long, Crossrail is one of the biggest ongoing infrastructure developments in Europe. Boasting a 10% increase in London’s total rail transport capacity, the new line should help to ease congestion on the cities infamously crammed Central and District lines. After its grand opening, which is pegged for December 2018, the new line will be named the Elizabeth Line (and it’s going to be purple!) and there’s actually going to be 10 brand new stations on the iconic tube map, according to TFL’s website.

The long and expensive march to commuter victory has not been easy going on the Crossrail’s workers. In 2014 Rene Tkacik, a Slovakian worker spraying concrete, was killed when a concrete piece fell directly onto his head. In any other case, this would probably be regarded purely as a sad unfortunate tragedy for the victim’s family, and a thorough health and safety check would be arranged, but at the Crossrail’s various sites the endangerment of their workers has in fact become a regular occurrence. Last November, over 100 Crossrail workers gathered outside the Crossrail head-quarters in Canary Wharf, London, to protest this “health and safety abomination”, and to demand a two tier payment plan.

Crossrail-Development-1

Another problem with this “abomination” is that Crossrail’s managers are accused of photographing and videoing workers who “may be in danger” and emailing the photos/videos to others with an “unmasked glee”. It is evident that the health and safety of the workers is not properly being taken into account here, even though MindSafety, a group of consultants tasked with investigating the sites workplace culture claimed that “The client [Crossrail], was ‘policing’ the contractor- trying to catch them out at every turn.”  All this has actually resulted in workers reporting that they are too scared to report injuries — which they are actually required to do — out of the fear of being laid off! A good solution to this problem would be some form of two tier payment and benefit plan, which should cover injury and sick pay. Oh, wait! That’s what the workers were asking for. I can confidently say that Crossrail’s management style remind’s me of that of a Victorian factory, the main difference being that the managers have smartphones.

Last November, socialistworker.co.uk reported that, “workers [have] complained of not being paid properly, toilets a two mile walk away and inadequate canteen facilities”, very much the cherry on the cake of this dire situation. Maybe large employers like them should think about the fact that employees are not a resource, they are people with needs. Give them decent canteens. Give them toilets. An army marches on its stomach, and an army that’s busting for a shit whilst being underpaid isn’t going to march at all.

All of this leaves us London residents in a Catch-22: obviously, your biggest power as a consumer is to be careful with where you spend your money- i.e. not spending it in places which make unethical investments and don’t respect their worker’s rights- but the majority of the line is owned by TFL, and most are not in the position to boycott TFL for a long period of time provided that public transport is an indispensable part of your day-to-day life.

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