Job Creation, Barratt-Style

Last Friday the Leicester Mercury wrote that the Bardon-based Barratt Developments plc aims to build upon their current base of 5,000 employees by conjuring up 200 new jobs a year over the next three years. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, no context was provided in the article; as arguably, it is important to know that just six years ago Barratt was employing over 6,900 workers.

In the Mercury piece, no mention is made of the fact that between 2008 and 2009 Barratt had viciously downsized their operations by sacking some 1,800 workers. Instead they merely note that Barratt intends to grow their workforce by creating 600 “graduate and apprentice positions.” [1] This statement is enlightening, as rather than rehiring the many highly skilled construction workers who currently remain unemployed, Barratt plans to recruit lowly paid graduates and apprentices; disingenuously arguing that they need to create such jobs “to tackle a potential skills shortage…”

Barratt Chief Executive Mark Clare “said the firm had been buoyed by the Government’s £130 billion Help to Buy scheme” — a highly controversial (second home) scheme which is more likely to benefit the rich than the poor.

In a socialist world, employers like Barratt would treat their employees fairly… but at present this seems unlikely. I say this because between 2001 and 2010 Barratt’s chairman, Bob Lawson, served as the chairman of the dubious temporary-worker-loving recruitment agency Hays plc — the same business which in 2009 was fined £30 million for forming a cartel to block “a new competitor from supplying labour to building firms” while acting to “set fee rates to charge certain builders.”

It would appear that Lawson’s days at Barratt will be coming to an end soon though, as Barratt’s has a rigourous “Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy” which states that “the Group will not tolerate bribery or corruption in any form and has a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to any breach of this policy.”

Another bad sign for Barrett’s future is the dodgy company that their Chief Executive keeps, as Mark Clare is a leading member of the Green Construction Board, a body which is co-chaired by the President and CEO of Skanska UK, Mike Putnam: Putnam being one of the most expansive users of the notorious blacklist provider, the Consulting Association, which Skanska used to anti-democratic effect “to check up on 66,000 people between 2005 and 2009.” [2]

Green Skanska may well be, but friendly to workers, they most certainly are not. Perhaps Clare might like to reconsider who he works with in the future…  or then again, perhaps he won’t.

[1] In March 2013, Jayne Mee, the group HR director at Barratt Developments who oversaw the drastic downsizing at Barratt, became the Director of People and Organisation Development at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. This is the same NHS Trust whose managers, in late 2011, were “considering shutting St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London, with the loss of 500 beds, and selling off the site to property developers in order to eliminate its £100 million ‘debt’.” Then, the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust was chaired by former Rio Tinto director, Lord Tugendhat. Sadly not much has changed, and now the NHS Trust is chaired by yet another healthcare profiteer and former board member of Rio Tinto, Sir Richard Sykes (who is a former chairman of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline).

[2] Mike Putnam became the head of Skanska UK in late 2009, but has been a board member and executive vice president since 2001. Moreover, despite their feeble excuses for their role in the ongoing blacklisting scandal, it seems that attacking workers is quite normal for Skanska, see “Skanska’s Secrets with Repsol-YPF”: “Falsified invoices, bribery scandals, extortion, environmental destruction, and serious violations of human rights are among the ethical and legal infractions that Skanska has been associated with in Latin America.”


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