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CITB workers ‘Unite’ to oppose closure of Norfolk HQ

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has confirmed that its Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) membership will today meet with staff representatives to decide how best to oppose the closure of the organisation’s Bircham Newton HQ.

Following on from last week’s consultation, CITB management has refused to entertain any counter proposal that recommends maintaining Bircham Newton or relocating to nearby Kings Lynn or Norwich. According to Unite, CITB leadership insists that a more centralised location is needed, with an as yet unidentified site in Peterborough the preferred option.

To date, CITB has confirmed that 133 workers will be made redundant as part of the transition. But this figure will likely rise, Unite claims, as more ‘back office’ roles in IT and maintenance are outsourced. It is thought that the majority of workers occupying these roles would not transfer and therefore face redundancy.

“We understand that delivery of these reforms will be significant challenge, and CITB will need to consider what changes to their operational model are appropriate,” said Milton, in response to a question from Labour Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey.

“It is important that due consultation takes place regarding sites and people affected by these decisions and we know that CITB are consulting with their employees, employee representatives, and local authorities and MPs on the changes required to deliver their stretching reforms.”

Given that CITB’s relocation now seems certain, concerns over the future of the National Construction College – also based at Bircham Newton – have returned to the fore. CITB previously announced that unique construction courses would be outsourced in the future. If no private provider can be found however the college may close altogether, which could spell disaster for the UK construction industry.

“CITB’s plans will lead to far more than 133 job losses,” said Mark Robinson, Regional Coordinating Officer at Unite. “While there may be a job for some in Peterborough it is simply too far away for it be financially viable for the overwhelming majority of staff. The board will be paying millions in redundancy payments and spending huge sums on recruiting new staff.

“In addition, the board’s plan to outsource services and divest from direct training later this year is likely to have a catastrophic impact on employment in the area. Unite believes the head office consultation is a smokescreen to hide the actual number of people who will lose their jobs.

“The government’s warning that CITB’s plans will pose a ‘significant challenge’ should be sending warning bells throughout the organisation. Unite is calling on CITB’s new chairman Peter Lauener to suspend the whole process, undertake a full and independent review and consult with industry to find out what it wants.”

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