Local authorities are being asked to say how much they are paying to use the energy-from-waste plant being built at the Wilton complex on Tees-side in a bid to prove that the cash-rich employer can pay the national rates of pay to workers.
The survey of councils across the UK by Unite, the country’s largest union, has been prompted by serious concerns about the employment and recruitment practices at the construction project, a joint venture between Sita and Sembcorp.
The focus of the dispute is that the 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.
Unite has members working on the £200 million energy-from-waste plant and is critical about the lack of access to workers at the project. This follows on-going concerns about undercutting of wage rates and the failure to abide by the recognised national agreements, as well as health and safety issues; the latest being one of the protesters allegedly hit by a vehicle entering the complex today (Friday 31 July).
Also today Romanian workers contacted the protestors informing them that they had not received the €6 per hour pay for the last two months – once again Unite calls on Sita/Sembcorp to investigate both of today’s claims.
Unite is also 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 onsite operating through umbrella companies who are employed with no employment rights.
Unite regional officer Steve Cason said: “We are in the process of contacting all of the local authorities across the country to determine how much money Sita is being paid to manage waste services.
“We believe the total awarded contracts will run into billions of pounds, so the issue is not that Sita can’t afford to pay the rates for the job, it just won’t pay the rates for the job.
“We could see a situation where the infrastructure to burn waste is completed and owned by Sita and, as competition is wiped out, prices to remove and burn waste from local authorities could rise, placing an unfair burden on the council taxpayer.”
Highly skilled construction workers and their supporters are protesting every week outside of the chemical complex over the issue of undercutting the national rates of pay in the construction sector – and these protests are set to continue.
Union members from Unite, the GMB and Ucatt have also vowed to step up the protests within Sita’s supply chain.
Steve Cason added: “Sita/Sembcorp could put an end to the mounting protests at any time by ensuring a forensic wage audit is carried out on the site, but they adamantly refuse to do this causing the dispute to escalate.
“Other issues raised included bonus and overtime rates, as well as holiday pay.
“Support from around the country is growing amongst construction workers who see their national agreements under threat from unscrupulous employers. They have vowed to come together nationally to defend their future, not only for themselves, but for the young people that enter the industry as apprentices.
“We call on the Sita and Sembcorp management to genuinely engage with us in meaningful and constructive talks, and adhere to the tried-and- tested national agreements.”
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.