Fair pay call at Leeds construction project

Unions launch campaign to ensure fair pay on new Leeds waste to energy construction project

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Construction unions Unite and GMB have launched a campaign to ensure that workers employed on a new waste-to-energy plant at Skelton Grange, Leeds are paid the correct rate for the job.

Over 500 construction workers will be employed on the £250 million project, which will eventually provide power for 100,000 homes. The project is being built for Enfinium by principal contractor Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI).

The nature of the construction work means that it should be built under the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI). HZI has previously built two waste-to-energy plants, at Ferrybridge in Yorkshire, where the workers were employed under the NAECI agreement, but is not applying the NAECI agreement on this project.

The unions are seeking to ensure that Leeds council demands HZI agrees to pay workers in line with the NAECI agreement or the project will not go ahead.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite will never allow the undercutting of pay rates and the undermining of construction agreements.

“When employers ignore construction agreements, exploitation, low rates of pay, excessive hours and poor health and safety are usually not far behind,” she added.

“Leeds council has a duty and the power to prevent this.  It must ensure that HZI pays the correct rates of pay on this project.”

In addition to the undercutting of pay rates and the non-payment of enhanced overtime rates, mileage and lodging allowances, which usually occurs when companies avoid using construction industry agreements, the unions are also concerned that local labour will not be employed, nor local skills training provided.

Concerns about the rates of pay and the recruitment of the workforce have been heightened because HZI is currently building a waste-to-energy plant at Newhurst in the East Midlands, where it is not paying the NAECI rate and the sub-contractors and the workforce on the site are predominantly non-UK based.

The unions began the campaign with a march and demonstration at the site earlier this week with over 150 local construction workers in attendance.

The unions have also launched an online petition which is aimed at Leeds council to ensure that it guarantees that HZI will abide by the NAECI agreement on the project.

Unite acting national construction officer Chris Weldon commented, “The new waste-to-energy plant at Skelton Grange must be built under the NAECI agreement and local labour recruited. Anything less would be a complete betrayal of skilled workers in Leeds and Yorkshire.”

By Barckley Sumner

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