WORKERS at one of Carillion's flagship Scottish projects claim they are owed tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid wages.

The workforce is also reliant on text messages from their bosses to find out if they still have a job, it was claimed.

The Sunday Herald spoke to those working for the construction giant on improvements to one of Scotland's biggest rail stations.

Alan, a track worker on the platform extension at Edinburgh's Waverley station, is wearing a jacket bearing the Carillion logo as he arrives to speak to union officials at a cafe, located close to the railway steps.

"I came in by train on Monday and a guy saw my jacket and he tapped me on the shoulder and told me the company had gone bust," says Alan who does not want to give his surname amid fears it will harm his employment prospects.

He adds: "When I went in the mood among the workers was more or less a write-off as we had seen it coming for months. The works manager came in and told us he was out of here."

According to Alan a number of colleagues have already found work elsewhere. "Every single manager here was just doing their CV," he jokes, as he sips a cup of tea served to him at his cafe table.

But for the workers left behind at Waverley station in Edinburgh, there's a grim reality to face.

Among the workforce - which includes track workers, forklift truck drivers and crane controllers - there's a palpable feeling of uncertainty about when or even if they will next be paid.

"It's a choice between abject poverty and relative poverty," says Alan grimly smiling, as he admits that it's only the prospect of getting what's owed to them that's keeping the workforce going.

However, the chances of this flagship rail project being finished on time hinge on whether the workers get their wages.

Alan says the company has been cutting costs to the bone for months, to the point where even tea bags that were supplied to staff have been withdrawn.

"We were told that we can't get tea bags anymore," laughs Alan, who has been working on the project for a year.

He says the Carillion crisis could jeopardise the timescale for the completion of the platform extension, which is due to be finished by the summer.

"There's no way this can't have any effect as we're well behind on parts of the work," says Alan. "The longer this goes on the more risky it gets and if we keep on with this situation it will be delayed," he adds.

Alan, who has 10 years of experience in the construction industry, fears the Waverley project is being wound down.

Graeme Turnbull, a Unite the union official, who is sitting with Alan at the end of the day shift, says a major problem is the uncertainty surrounding who is employing the workers due to Carillion sub-contracting.

Turnbull says: "We intend to assist every worker, whether they are in the union or not. But we may be struggling here until we find the correct employment status of these guys."

Alan, like most of the Waverley workers, is a contractor and is not employed directly by Carillion. He says that he works for a subcontractor owned by the Carillion.

"Your pay is certainly subcontracted out several times removed," he claims. "You phone about your money and one lot blames the other."

Alan says the subcontractor has outsourced his wages to two separate companies. It's an arrangement that Unite describes as 'employment by umbrella companies'.

The union claims it has led to workers being forced to pay their own National Insurance.

When Carillion went into liquidation last week, the rail workers were due to have been paid bonuses for working Christmas Day and other festive holiday shifts.

Alan claims the sums owed add up to tens of thousands of pounds for the 80-strong workforce.

He says: "This was the week when wages were supposed to paid for working Christmas and New Year. To take a snapshot, it's definitely tens of thousands of pounds in wages that are owed."

Alan alone is owed £3,500. He says he was sent a text message by a firm working for the liquidators informing him the payment had been made. However, he says he has yet to receive it.

It's the pay issue that could prove decisive for the future of the project, he warns.

Alan claims the workers have to work six days for wages of between £300 and £400 per week.

He says: "Myself, I've not had any holidays since July and I've worked six days a week more or less non stop. Everyone is expected to work six days a week in that job."

However, if wages remain unpaid, Alan says he believes those left could start to walk away.

Alan says: "If the wages aren't in the bank then it's another issue. That's when you would see a big difference with people saying 'I'm not doing this. I'm not doing that'. Personally I would stick it out as long as the wages are in."

Alan says the workforce has also been told they will have jobs until the end of January.

However, after that he says they will be informed by text every fortnight about whether they are to be kept on.

He says: "We'll be getting a text message about whether we get any work."

It's a situation Unite’s Graeme Turnbull believes could get worse.

He fears that workers owed money will be treated as Carillion's creditors and therefore not receive the full amounts due to them.

Turnbull says: "There is a story that every one of the creditors is just going to get a penny for each pound they are owed. The fear is that these guys will be classed as creditors."

Pat Rafferty, leader of Unite Scotland, added that many workers "haven’t been paid this month and don’t know where their next wage is coming from".

For now at least the workers at one of Edinburgh Waverley continue with their task. However, the collapse of Carillion could yet see the much heralded improvements at one of Scotland's biggest rail stations hit the buffers.

A spokeswoman for Carillion said that all queries about the company should be referred to the UK Government's Cabinet Office, when contacted by the Sunday Herald.

However, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman referred the query to the government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

A BEIS spokeswoman said: "If the employees are direct employees of Carillion they should turn up to work as normal and will get paid.

"It sounds as though they may be working for a Carillion subcontractor, in which case they should follow the instructions of their employer.

"Sub-contractors who have not been paid for goods or services provided by Carillion should register as creditors in the liquidation."