This week has seen the publishing of the ACAS inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the Lindsey Oil Refinery depute. Responding to the ACAS inquiry into the recent unofficial action at Lindsey oil refinery, Unite’s joint general secretary Derek Simpson said: “The law wasn’t broken, the law was wrong. “Unless European governments start to put working people first with protective legislation that applies across the whole of the EU, then protests like the ones we have seen in the construction industry will go on until they do.”
Writing in a blog on Derek Draper’s Labour List, Mr Simpson said: “At the root of the problem is that European employment law as interpreted by successive UK governments has provided little protection for UK workers from social dumping.”
“The campaign for fair access to jobs for British workers in the
construction industry has nothing to do with the exclusion of other EU
nationals from work in Britain. It is in fact about protecting people
working in Britain from exploitation regardless of where they come from.”
“It is a class issue not a race issue.”
“A short term solution to this situation is for the government to insist
on corporate social responsibility clauses in all contracts on major
infrastructure projects. This method is currently employed in France where Alstom, one of the companies at the centre of the dispute, are
required to give consideration to local labour on all of its building
The ACAS report contains the sentence “IREM (the Italian sub-contractor) were fully aware and, in submitting a tender, would be implicitly accepting that all of their workers on site would be employed on the terms and conditions set down in the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) including their pay”
Alstom in their press release of the 5th February also stated all of
Alstom’s construction sites for power stations strictly adhere to and are fully compliant with national agreements in place (NAECI) which ensure safe working, correct pay and conditions for workers regardless of their nationality, in the engineering construction industry.
Surely these pledges of fidelity to the NAECI agreement by the employers should mean that they will support us in our campaign to get the terms and conditions as negotiated by our unions enforceable in law, making it illegal to undercut our agreement.
However some of the ACAS findings are welcome, we agree that the powers of the auditor should be beefed up in both the tendering and project monitoring processes to ensure we are operating on a level playing field.
We welcome also any measure that increases the transparency of the
application of the agreement.
We also welcome the announcement of a wider review into our industry to look at skills, employment relations and productivity issues bearing on the overall competitiveness of UK companies in tendering for projects on large construction sites. We will have lots to say to whoever is conducting the review. But this is a cheap shot from people who should know better if they were properly briefed. The NAECI agreement is all about productivity, bell to bell working, maximum utilisation of skills and flexibility. The ace scheme run by the respected ECITB a statutory body has inherent within it competencies and high levels of productivity a scheme that the government supported to the tune of several million pounds. In our opinion there is nothing wrong with a properly administered ACE scheme.
Whilst we are on the subject of competitiveness, the charge by employers that UK workers are less productive than their overseas counterparts is creeping into the debate. The charge that we are racist could not stick.
The charge that UK workers are less skilled than others could not stick.
Some employers and it seems some government ministers, now claim we are lazy and thereby try to justify the use of overseas labour. UK workers are just as productive as anybody else and are readily employed by firms on projects all over the world. The same voices that claim we are lazy also claim that for every construction worker from abroad in this country, there are seven UK workers employed overseas. Why would overseas companies allow their diligent and conscientious workers to come here whilst they are forced to employ lazy workers of dubious skills level from the UK. You can’t have it both ways.
Our campaign continues and as a reminder of the size of the task ahead the GMB report the following..
Medway Accommodation Barge And Disused Kent Army Barracks To Be Used To House Overseas Posted Workers Due To Build Power Station At Isle Of Grain
GMB CEC convene meeting of GMB shop stewards and officials to deal with organized threat to hard won terms and conditions of employment in engineering construction
18 Feb 2009
The GMB Central Executive Council (CEC), meeting yesterday, was told that the contractors and sub-contractors building a new power station at Isle of Grain, Kent are seeking planning permission to use an accommodation barge and disused army barracks to house Polish workers who are due to be brought into the UK to build the station. The 70 metre accommodation barge will be moored at Damhead Wharf, Damhead Creek on the River Medway. The disused army barracks is at Chattenden on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent.
Planning permission for the barge has already been given to Dr C
Wesolowski from Alstom Power Systems to house 200 hundred workers between January 2009 and November 2010
The focus of the dispute about the application of EU Posted Workers
directive in the UK has shifted from Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire
to two new sites of which Isle of Grain is one. New power stations are
being built at the two sites, for RWE at Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire and for EON at the Isle of Grain in Kent. Both sites are being managed by main contractor Alstom. Alstom is using sub contractors FNN and Mon Presior at Staythorpe and sub contractors Remak and Zre Katowice at the Isle of Grain. Alstom told the trade unions in January 2009 that they plan to use 250 Polish workers, employed at Alstom’s own execution centre in Poland, to build the next phase of Staythorpe and that they will not be employing any UK workers. Zre from Katowice plan to bring in 120 workers from Poland and will house them in the barge and in the barracks.
The CEC considered how to stop this discrimination against UK workers and how best to protect the terms and conditions of employment in the UK construction engineering industry. The CEC were told that as things now stand, the UK Business Department, EU Commission and European Court of Justice are a powerful and malevolent political force working with employers to cut terms and conditions of the UK construction engineering workforce. The CEC agreed to convene a meeting of all GMB shop stewards and officials to consider how best to deal with this organized threat to hard won terms and conditions of employment in this industry.
One aim is to secure amending legislation in UK Parliament to correct the failure to implement article 3.8 of the Posted Workers Directive into UK law which would make it a legal requirement that posted workers in this sector be paid the nationally agreed rates of pay. Another is to secure action at European Union level to deal with European Court judgements on the Viking and Laval cases which opened the door to this discrimination.
The European Parliament called by 5 to 1 for the Commission and member states to do this. In the meantime pressure has to mount on the employers to stop undermining terms and conditions and to stop discriminating against UK workers. One way of doing this may be to seek improvements to the transparency rules in the national agreement.
Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary said “The CEC has called GMB shop
stewards and officers to meet to consider ways in which members in this industry can defend their terms and conditions and stop employers refusing to even consider employing them.
These members have been let down by employers like Alstom, by the UK Government, by ACAS, by the EU Commission and the European Court. They need to look at how they can best defend themselves with the assistance of the union. The CEC have made clear that it will sanction an official strike ballot should that be the route this meeting decides to go” The anti trade union laws permitting.
Our campaign has real momentum behind it we must keep the issue in the public eye until we have achieved real change for the better. Just in case people have forgotten, all we are looking for is that unemployed UK engineering construction workers get a start with the non-UK sub contractors. What role are the clients (who own the power stations currently being constructed) playing to support the legitimate demands of UK construction workers?
The views expressed in this bulletin are not necessarily the views of supporters of the CRSF.