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Unions threaten protest at Suez EfW plant

A protest is set to take place outside an under-construction energy-from-waste plant in Teesside this week as a row rumbles on over recruitment and information availability.

The demonstration, organised by Teesside Activists at the Wilton 11 project, is scheduled for 30 April after representatives of the Unite, GMB and Ucatt unions held a public meeting on 18 April in Redcar to discuss recruitment for the plant’s construction.

Unite has accused Sita Sembcorp of failing to provide it with details about foreign workers’ wages, a full list of contractors and the number of workers each employs, and clarification about a worker injury. Unite also claimed that it had not been allowed to bring an interpreter on-site to help communication with foreign workers.

Sita Sembcorp, a joint venture involving a Suez division, responded by saying that pay for all workers employed on the site meets the unions’ national agreements, and that details of sub-contractors have been released to the unions. It also confirmed that a worker for Baldwin Crane Hire did suffer a serious injury and is now recovering at home.

Speaking to MRW, Unite regional officer Steve Cason said: “We are hoping this Thursday that Sita Sembcorp will come back to us with the information we’ve requested, that they will allow us to go on-site with an interpreter, and confirm what actions have taken place on-site.”

A spokesperson for Sita Sembcorp said: “There is no indication that any of the workers on-site are dissatisfied with their pay and conditions or that any site workers have been involved in the union’s protests.”

The company said that an agreement was reached with unions in February for interpreters to be provided by its principal contractor. The company has also disputed claims of blocking information.

As recently reported in MRW, a previous dispute between the unions and Sita Sembcorp erupted over alleged over-reliance on cheaper foreign workers and a lack of opportunities for local recruitment. This resulted in a public meeting on 18 April.

A statement from Sita Sembcorp read: “Claims by the trade unions that individuals were discouraged from speaking with them is disappointing, given the large amount of time and effort that went into organising and promoting what was a genuine opportunity for the unions to meet the workforce.

“Regardless of this, we remain open to future visits by union representatives to this site and will work with them to ensure that anyone who wants to has an opportunity to meet with them.”

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.

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