Bosses should focus on settling the wage rates dispute at the £200 million energy-from-waste plant being built at the Wilton complex on Teesside, instead of hiding behind court injunctions to divert attention from the core issues.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said that the injunction that SUEZ, the company responsible for the operation of the facility, was granted against protesting workers today (Friday 13 November) was ‘a diversionary tactic’.
The focus of the eight-month dispute is that the Wilton project is being built outside of the terms of all the national agreements (CIJC and NAECI) for the construction industry which have been in place for more than 30 years.
Suez is a minority shareholder in the Merseyside Energy Recovery Ltd (formerly SITA Sembcorp UK Ltd) which was awarded a 30-year £1.2 billion contract to turn waste into energy.
Unite national officer for construction Bernard McAulay said: "The right of protest is a fundamental civil liberty that should be protected at all costs. This order in no way prohibits individuals from conducting themselves in lawful forms of protest.
“Rather than running to court to obtain injunctions to reaffirm that protests should be conducted lawfully, Unite would encourage the company to demonstrate a genuine desire to resolve the issues behind the dispute.
“Today’s injunction smacks of diversionary tactics to camouflage the core issue of this dispute which is the plant is being built outside of the terms of all the national agreements for the construction industry which have been in place for more than 30 years.
“The company and its contractors are flouting these tried and tested agreements and are hiding behind the legal system to avoid entering into positive talks with the unions.
“Unite calls on the employers to agree a set of terms of reference for an independent audit of all contractors’ employees’ terms and conditions.”
Unite has members working at the plant and is also critical about the lack of access to workers at the project. This follows on-going concerns not just about the undercutting of wage rates, but over health and safety issues as well.
Unite is worried at the lack of job opportunities for people from the local community. The union would like to see the companies taking the lead on apprenticeships and ensuring opportunities are available for young people.
There also appears to be a high number of agency labour on-site operating through umbrella companies who are employed with no employment rights.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.