Grenfell: Managers in ‘essential’ roles were newly promoted
Rydon employees working in three essential roles on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment were all newly promoted, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.
Leading counsel to the Inquiry, Richard Millett QC, raised a May 2014 email sent by Rydon refurbishment director Stephen Blake to staff at the firm after the contractor had won the tender for the £9m refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, before the D&B contract with the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) was signed.
The email announced a series of promotions: Zak Maynard to commercial manager, Simon Lawrence to contract manager and Simon O’Connor to project manager. All three were all operating their first project in those new roles.
Millett asked Blake if it was it common at Rydon for these three “essential” roles to be occupied by newly promoted employees on the same project?
Blake said: “It’s not necessarily common, but that’s recognition of their abilities to do so. So it’s a young, progressive team.” He added that each individual was able to do their role and that he had “no worries” about their capabilities.
Asked if it was correct that Simon O’Connor was not given a job description or any guidance for his new role, Blake replied: “I’m not quite sure what Simon means there. What I know with respect to the role that I wanted him to fulfil on the contract was primarily as a site management role. The title ‘project manager’ could include a certain level of responsibility of interaction of the design process.”
Millett asked if this had ever been spelled out to O’Connor.
Blake said: “His role was primarily as the lead site manager. What I’m trying to say, Mr Millett, is that the role that he was fulfilling at Grenfell was no different to the role that he fulfilled on his previous contract.”
Millett asked if that meant O’Connor’s promotion to project manager was just a “nominal promotion”.
Blake said: “Partially. At the time, there was a very fierce competition for site managers within the whole building arena, and people were being attracted by very substantial job offers in a market of undersupply. So part of my role is to keep valuable people working for us.”
Asked if O’Connor, who had received a pay rise, had been told that his role was the same as it had been as a site manage on his previous project, Blake said: “I didn’t have that conversation with him. I would encourage him to grow into that role, so he would have that opportunity.”
The Inquiry continues.