Campaigners warn South Shields construction company over strike breaking

Unite fights British Steel plans to break scaffolders' strike

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A giant inflatable rat will join campaigners outside a South Shields company, called Rope Access Trade Solutions. The company stands accused by Unite of supplying workers to help British Steel break a strike by scaffolders employed by Actavo (UK) at its site in Scunthorpe.

The protest will take place outside Rope Access Trade Solutions 9-10 Charlotte Street, NE33 4NU on Wednesday 8 December at 11.30 am. 

The union has warned British Steel that engaging Rope Access Trade Solutions could be in breach of criminal law which prevents workers from being supplied to cover the duties of workers engaged in lawful industrial action.

Over 60 workers have been on continuous strike action for nine weeks in a long running dispute with their employer Actavo (UK). They are significantly underpaying their workers. This breaks a national agreement which sets fair rates for the job and prevents a race to the bottom for construction workers. But Unite says that the client, British Steel, must also take responsibility for this long running dispute.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said, “We believe Rope Access Trade Solutions have been engaged by British Steel specifically to carry out works which would normally be done by our members who are on lawful strike. This may well be in breach of criminal law.  We also have evidence that other workers are being pressured into working for British Steel’s scaffolding contractor Actavo.

“The workers on strike have their union’s steadfast support. Any attempt to break this strike will be fiercely resisted. My priority is to defend Unite members’ jobs, pay and conditions.

“Unite will not allow employers to use strike breakers to help erode workers’ pay. We will fight tooth and nail to stop the race to the bottom.”

The dispute, which began in 2019, is a result of the scaffolders not being paid in line with the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI). The rates for the workforce are currently between 10-15 per cent (depending on specific roles) below these rates. The workers maintain 500 scaffolding structures at the British Steel site.

By Ciaran Naidoo

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