Protests over pay at Dunbar energy plant

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Two international construction firms came under fire this week with a protest outside a Dunbar project.

The protest - one of three across the UK - was held at the Oxwellmains energy from waste plant.

Organised by the unions Unite, GMB and Ucatt, the protest on Tuesday morning blamed the two firms, Interserve and Babcock & Wilcox Vølund, for looking to undermine industry wide national agreements on pay.

The unions claim that non-UK workers installing the main boilers on three projects (at Dunbar, Rotheram and Port Talbot) will be paid little more than the minimum wage, as opposed to the agreed rate of £16.64 per hour (plus £2.37 per hour bonus) covered by national agreements.

The protests at the joint venture’s three construction projects coincided with this week’s delivery of boiler panels to the Templeborough project in Rotherham.

As part of the joint venture, Danish firm Babcock & Wilcox Vølund awarded the Croatian company Ðuro Ðavokic the contract to manufacture and install the main boilers for all three energy plants.

The three unions are calling on the contractors to adhere to national minimum standards negotiated through the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) and the National Agreement Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI).

Unions are also calling on the contractors to guarantee that workers on the project will be employed directly to stop workers being exploited by bogus self-employment schemes run by sub-contractors, employment agencies and ‘umbrella’ payment companies.

Unite national officer for construction, Bernard McAulay said: “The contractors on this project are actively seeking to undermine the pay and conditions of skilled workers through their refusal to abide by industry wide agreements.

“Under national agreements for the industry there is one rate for the job, no matter where you are from. These agreements maintain minimum standards, help retain and develop skills, and train the next generation of apprentices, while halting a race to the bottom in the industry.”

A Babcock and Wilcox spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by Unite and GMB’s decision to demonstrate at our various job sites.

“Our contractors are selected upon careful evaluation, and while some are based in Europe, many are local businesses from around the site regions which will benefit from involvement in the projects. As the projects are in relatively early stages of development, there will be further opportunities for us to work with local communities over the coming months.”