Unions launch pay campaign for Leeds incinerator

CGI of Skelton Grange

More than 500 construction workers will be employed on the £250m Skelton Grange project, which will burn 410,000 tonnes of Leeds municipal waste a year and provide power for 100,000 homes.

The plant is being built by Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) for Enfinium (formerly Wheelabrator UK and Multifuel Energy). Construction started last summer.

The unions says that 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 pressing Leeds council to demand HZI observes NAECI agreement or pull the plug.

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. 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.”

GMB national officer for construction Charlotte Childs said: “Our members and the national agreement have served the construction industry well. Union jobs are safer, better paid and well built, it makes sense to adopt the national agreement to get this project built. GMB will hold to account any client or contractor who tries to circumnavigate the hard fought for rights our members have won. HZI needs to get round the table with GMB and Unite to bring this project under the agreement.”

In addition to the undercutting of pay rates and the non-payment of enhanced overtime rates, mileage and lodging allowances, the unions are also concerned that local labour will not be employed, nor local skills training provided. These concerns have been heightened because HZI is currently building a waste-to-energy plant at Newhurst in the East Midlands. It is not paying the NAECI rate and the subcontractors and the workforce on this site are predominantly non-UK based.

Unite acting national construction officer Chris Weldon said: “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.”

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