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Construction workers protest in Copenhagen

Danish pension bosses accused of washing their hands of UK construction undercutting
Barckley Sumner, Monday, June 12th, 2017

Unite and GMB members are again protesting in Copenhagen, Denmark tomorrow (Tuesday June 13) after the financier of major energy from waste plants in the UK, tried to ‘wash its hands’ of the undercutting of pay and conditions on a number of projects.


Pay rates of construction workers are being undercut through social dumping on plants in Rotherham, Yorkshire and Sandwich in Kent. Pay rates being offered via sub-contractors are reportedly up to 61 per cent below the agreed rates of the relevant collective agreements.


Both projects are being financed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners the investment arm of Pension Danmark. Despite Pension Danmark having extensive corporate social responsibility policies, outlawing exploitation on projects at home and abroad, Jens-Christian Stouguard, the senior vice-president of the organisation, has refused to meet the unions. He claims it is a matter for the sub-contractors.


“The senior representatives at Pension Danmark are doing a good impression of Pontius Pilate by trying to wash their hands of the exploitation which is occurring on their projects,” said Bernard McAulay, Unite national officer for construction.


“Highly skilled workers feel betrayed by the failure of Pension Danmark to observe its corporate social responsibility policies,” he added.


The unions will be protesting outside the offices of Pension Danmark from 08:00 and leafleting throughout the Danish capital to highlight the exploitation which is occurring in the Danish nation’s name.


“Since the unions exposed this appalling exploitation, there have been warm words from one contractor but no action, while rates continue to be undercut and the resentment of workers increases,” said Bernard.


“We call upon the Pension Danmark board of directors to meet with the UK trade unions instead of continuing to look for excuses and move swiftly to end the abuses that are occurring on their projects. They have put in the investment and therefore are ultimately responsible for what occurs on their projects,” he added.


The two principal sub-contractors of concern are both Danish companies, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund and Burmesiter & Wain Scandinavian Contractor.


Since the unions exposed their unscrupulous practices earlier this year neither company has taken any action to end the exploitation of those workers employed through their supply chain, by reversing their aggressive undercutting policies.


“We’re back in Copenhagen to show both Pensions Danmark and the Danish government the problem of undercutting hasn’t gone away – and neither will we,” said Phil Whitehurst, GMB national officer for construction.


“They need to take action against the companies involved in this exploitative, nasty business. Our members deserve a fair wage – and shouldn’t miss out on jobs just because they demand one. And foreign workers deserve not to be exploited,” he added.


Despite the senior representatives of Pension Danmark refusing to meet the UK unions, importantly, the Danish trade unionists who sit on the board have willingly agreed to a meeting and it is anticipated they will bring additional pressure to bear to help end the exploitation.


The aggressive social dumping and exploitation being undertaken by these Danish companies is entirely illegal in Denmark as posted workers are protected by the appropriate collective agreements. In the UK companies are only legally required to comply with minimum wage legislation.


“Pensions Danmark and the Danish government should know we will be back, as many times as necessary, to see this through,” said Phil.

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