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Unions accuse SSUK of failing to investigate claims

Labour MPs and MEPs have backed union calls for an investigation into claims of poor working conditions for construction workers at the Wilton 11 energy-from-waste plant.

The call came at a meeting between union leaders, the Labour MPs for Redcar, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Stockton, and Judith Kirton-Darling, MEP for the north-east.

The unions Ucatt, Unite and GMB have made repeated allegations about the facility, including low pay for foreign workers that breached agreements.

GMB said that between 15 and 20 Slovakian and Hungarian workers had been taken on for £5 per hour less than non-binding agreements within the construction industry after local workers were made redundant.

Construction is being undertaken by CNIM Clugston (a joint venture between CNIM and Clugston) on behalf of Sita Sembcorp UK (SSUK), a consortium of Sembcorp, Suez UK and Itochu.

At the end of August, SSUK complained that the unions were continuing to air grievances about the project even though all sides agreed to a period of seven working days to allow SSUK and CNIM Clugston to investigate matters properly.

That period has elapsed. Although Suez has responded in part to the union claims, it has declined to divulge the contents of its response publicly until the full investigation is complete.

Phil Whitehurst, a construction officer with the GMB, said: “SSUK will not instruct all their subcontractors to do a forensic audit of what they are paying. SSUK can say whatever they want – that doesn’t mean we have to believe them.”

A spokesman for Suez UK said: “There are quite a lot of allegations from the unions and we want to investigate these claims thoroughly. We have got back to the union on some of these points but there is still a lot more to do.

“We want to investigate all the points that are raised thoroughly and we will put out a statement once those investigations are concluded.”

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