Unite HQ raided as police investigate hotel building costs

Unite the Union’s London headquarters were raided by police this week in connection with a financial crime investigation involving the building of a hotel and conference center in Birmingham.

Sky News reported that between 15 and 20 officers were involved in the search of the office building in Holborn (pictured) and walked away with boxes of documents and a computer

The raid was a joint operation by South Wales Police and the UK Revenue Service, HMRC. A spokesman for the force said it carried out the search to investigate allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

In 2016, Unite commissioned Flanagan Group to build a 170-bed hotel in Birmingham called Unite Hotel and Conference Centre. Construction costs for the project increased by £41m, resulting in a £98m build, which was completed in December 2020.

The union’s then general secretary, Len McCluskey, told a Unite executive board meeting in January 2021 that costs had risen because of its adherence to union protocol, which meant employing unionized workers , avoiding the involvement of companies that had blacklisted histories, directly employing workers and paying them at least national rates of pay. The union’s executive committee concluded that directly employed labour, high construction costs in Birmingham and a change in the scope of the project drove up the price.

In April 2021, Labor MP Neil Coyle, also a union member, blamed the mismanagement of hotel project funds and called for an investigation. In December, newly appointed General Secretary Sharon Graham launched the investigation.

Unite the Union is one of the largest trade unions in the UK with 1.2 million members, including workers in the construction industry. The Birmingham project under review included a Marriott-branded hotel, conference space, a training center and offices for the union.

A Unite spokesperson said: “A Unite employee is under criminal investigation by police. On Wednesday April 6, the employee’s office at Unite’s headquarters in Holborn, London, was searched and searched by police under warrant.

South Wales Police said in addition to London, warrants had been issued in South Wales and police areas of Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Dyfed -Powys and Northamptonshire.

Alice F. Ponder