Sita Sembcorp has rejected complaints from trades unions about employment and recruitment practices at its energy-from-waste plant on Teesside.
Unite has alleged a lack of job opportunities for people from the local community at the Wilton 11 complex which is under construction. Unite, GMB and Ucatt representatives have called a public meeting on 18 April in Redcar.
A GMB statement said: “The project is being built predominately using European labour that is being used as cheap labour, undermining the current national agreement for the engineering and construction industry. They are being paid £4 per hour below the agreed rates for engineering construction workers.”
Unite regional officer Steve Carson said: “Our members have expressed serious concern about the lack of opportunity to train the next generation of apprenticeships to acquire the skills and experience to maintain these plants in the future.”
Sita Sembcorp, a joint venture involving a Suez division, refuted the claims, saying there was no evidence to support them.
A statement said a “significant proportion” of workers on-site had been from the local area and it had made efforts to promote opportunities to local workers, including a jobs fair at Redcar and Cleveland College on 19 February.
There were some construction workers from Europe but all, irrespective of nationality, were paid according to the unions’ relevant national agreements, it added.
“Energy-from-waste facilities require a great deal of specialist equipment which has had to be sourced from within the wider EU. Some of our suppliers chose to use their own specialist and experienced workforce when they were fitted.
“All workers on-site, regardless of their nationality, are employed because of their individual skills and abilities. They have a legal entitlement to work in the UK and contribute to the local economy while they are here. Furthermore, there is no substance to allegations that they are employed as a means of sourcing cheap labour.”
Sita Sembcorp’s £1bn contract is to manage more than 420,000 tonnes of residual household waste a year from Merseyside and Halton. It includes the design, build, finance and operation of two key facilities set to be operational by 2016, including the Wilton complex and a rail loading waste transfer station on Merseyside.