Construction unions, Unite, GMB and Ucatt today (Monday 24 August) called on Sita and Semcorp to intervene and stop contractors building the energy-from-waste plant at Wilton on Teesside undercutting pay rates and using ‘exploitative’ employment practices.
The call follows an onsite visit by the three unions with independent interpreters, which revealed migrant workers being paid barely above the minimum wage and having to pay employee and employer national insurance contributions because they were employed through umbrella companies.
The unions said conditions on the site rode a ‘coach and horses’ through national agreements covering the construction industry and warned of a culture of fear taking root on the site.
Commenting Unite regional officer Steve Cason said: “We have suspected all along that the undercutting of pay and the exploitative use of umbrella companies is taking place on the site.
“Now we know it’s true and that a coach and horses is being ridden through national agreements established to maintain standards and ensure workers are paid a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
“This race to the bottom and exploitation of workers has got to stop with Sita and Semcorp intervening to ensure people are paid in line with national agreements.”
Michael Blench GMB regional officer said: "After visiting the Sita site on 17 August 2015, I was appalled to find the treatment of the foreign migrant labour and have given a full account to Sita on these matters.
“Sita is treating these workers deplorably and not paying anywhere near our national rates, less than half in most cases.
“As usual the small amount of local labour on site has been paid off and more migrant labour is being brought in, with little attention paid to their safety or their welfare.
“Sita is a prime example of a company abusing local communities making excessive extortionate profit on the back of their employees’ misery.
“Andy Stokes, Sita project director, has again ignored our pleas for national rates to apply and whitewashed any investigations into our findings. It is now for the client and the political parties on Merseyside to conduct a full audit and stop exploitation on site.
“GMB will fight vigorously to maintain the national pay standards and our member's dignity in the face of unscrupulous employers like Sita."
Denis Doody, regional secretary for construction union Ucatt's Northern region, said: "The level of exploitation being suffered by workers at Wilton is disgusting. The employers undertaking this exploitation have no shame or morality. They are just interested in making large profits as quickly as possible.
"Sita and Semcorp can no longer turn a blind eye and must intervene to end this workplace misery."
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact:
Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Steve Cason on 07815 704387.
For the GMB contact Michael Blench 07870 176748 or Phil Whitehurst 07968 338810 or the GMB press office on 07921 289880.
For Ucatt contact Barckley Sumner on 07802329235