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End ‘race to the bottom’ call

Welsh councils accused of undermining construction agreements
Barckley Sumner, Monday, February 5th, 2018

Unite has warned that a rogue construction project in Wales is undermining pay, conditions and safety and ‘creating a race to the bottom’ in the industry.


Unite’s concern relates to the building of an £800m energy from waste facility at Park Adfer in Deeside north Wales.


The project is being undertaken by the North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Partnership which consists of five local authorities including Conwy County Borough Council, Denbighshire County Council, Flintshire County Council, Gwynedd County Council and Isle of Anglesey County Council. Labour led-Flintshire County Council is the lead authority in the partnership.


The partnership has contracted French company CNIM to undertake the project and American outfit Wheelabrator is also a major player on the site.


CNIM is refusing to apply national construction agreements and is only using the minimum wage to set pay rates. The appropriate agreement for much of the work is the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI).


Applying the national living wage rates of pay on the project actually undermines the NAECI agreement’s terms and conditions by at least 63.5 per cent.


As well as the attack on the NAECI agreement, CNIM are undermining health and safety, welfare provisions, and training and are refusing to employ local labour.


It is understood that there are currently 60 workers on the site but this is set to expand to 250-300 workers.


Unite has been applying pressure on the local authorities, local MPs, assembly members and the Welsh Assembly, in order to resolve the problems.


“Park Adfer is a stain on the construction industry, the Welsh authorities are giving carte blanche to CNIM to turn the clock back 50 years on construction rights,” said Unite regional officer Steve Benson.


“This project is a direct threat to the NAECI agreement and it must not be allowed to set a trend for future work.


“Workers on the site are getting a pittance as the proper rates of pay and conditions are simply not being applied,” he added. “There is no union representation; safety is being compromised as there are no elected safety reps.


“The future of the industry’s collective agreements are being undermined despite their being a looming skills chasm in the industry; there is no apprentice training being undertaken at Park Adfer.


“National agreements work for both workers and employers — workers receive a fair rate of pay and operate in a safe controlled environment, where they go home safely each day. In return projects are delivered promptly and on budget.


“Frankly it is insulting how the councils led by Flintshire have tried to wash their hands of the exploitation and misery which is occurring on their doorstep.


“The local councils need to stop rolling over and having their bellies tickled by Wheelabrator and CNIM and instead they must take action and ensure that the exploitation and squalor being created at Park Adfer is ended.


There have already been several protests at the site and it is likely that these will increase, as Unite members and fellow construction workers prepare to travel from across the country to protest.


Unite is currently in the process of collecting signatures for a petition which will force the Welsh Assembly to debate the issue.


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