Construction unions (Unite and GMB) have warned that further protests are likely in a dispute over companies failing to pay industry rates and employ local workers on the £175 million energy from waste project in Port Clarence, Teesside.
Disgruntled, skilled local workers held a protest outside the site on Monday (31 July). All the companies on the site have failed to adhere to the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (the NAECI agreement) and some of the sub-contractors have explicitly failed to recruit local labour.
The project is being financed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, the investment arm of Pension Danmark. The work is being undertaken by Babcock & Wilcox Volund, also a Danish based company.
The work has been sub-contracted to several companies, Duro Dakovic undertaking the boiler work, ZRE undertaking the pipe work, FJ Booth the steel work and Palmer Scaffolding. None of the companies are fully following the NAECI agreement and some of the companies have been known to only pay the national minimum wage (currently £7.50 an hour) on previous UK projects. FJ Booth and Palmer Scaffolding are mirroring the minimum rates of the NAECI agreement of £15.12 an hour, without paying a bonus.
The standard ate payable under the NAECI agreement is £16.97 an hour with an hourly bonus of £2.37 an hour.
The undercutting which is occurring on the site would be illegal in Demark, as the country has introduced the European Union Posted Workers’ Directive in such a way that all companies bringing in overseas workers have to abide by the relevant industrial agreement.
There have been a series of energy from waste projects funded by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, all of which have resulted in the undercutting of wage rates or the contractor failing to comply with the relevant industrial agreement.
Representatives from Unite and GMB are due to meet senior members of Pension Danmark on Monday 7 August in an attempt to resolve the dispute. The unions have already secured the support of Danish trade unionists who sit on the board of Pension Danmark.
Unite regional official Steve Cason, said: “Workers on Teesside are angry and frustrated that the companies involved in the Port Clarence project are frequently ignoring skilled local workers in recruiting for this project and all the companies are failing to adhere to the NAECI agreement.
“Babcock and Wilcox Volund has consistently failed to address our concerns and is deliberately dragging its feet in reaching an agreement to resolve the inherent exploitation occurring on its sites. If there is no agreement then further protests are inevitable.
“If there is no resolution to the dispute, Unite will consider balloting its members over the failure of contractors to enforce the correct pay rates.”
Phil Whitehurst, GMB national officer for construction, said: “The companies involved at Port Clarence are ignoring the large, highly skilled local workforce and instead bussing in labour from outside – and not paying them proper wages.
“How do they think people on Teesside are going to react?
“This protest is just the tip of the iceberg – we will be back again and again until these companies get the message that what they are doing is not right.”
For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.