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Construction strike ballot at power stations and petrochemical sites

17 July 2009

Unite is to ballot its members for strike action at seven major power and petrochemical plants across Britain. The ballot will run from 11 August and end on 1 September with any agreed industrial action following shortly after.

Construction strike ballot at power stations and petrochemical sites
Construction strike ballot at power stations and petrochemical sites

Unite, together with the GMB, is to ballot its members because the employer’s body, the Engineering Construction Industry Association (ECIA) has rejected the unions key demands for improvements to the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI), which would deliver fairness and long term stability to the sector. Although talks are continuing, the unions have lost confidence that the ECIA is serious in addressing the union’s grievances.

Unite is balloting members working in the building and maintenance of Britain's power stations and petrochemical sites. The sites targeted are: BP FPS Grangemouth and Ineos Grangemouth in Scotland; Sellafield, Shell UK Stanlow and Staythorpe RWE in England; and Chevron Pembroke and Aberthaw in Wales.

The ballot follows months of industrial unrest and unofficial action at sites across the country due to unscrupulous employers refusing local workers access to apply for work and undercutting the NAECI agreement.

Unite assistant general secretary Les Bayliss said: “Unite has given employers every opportunity to come to an agreement over the union’s demands, which are fair and will deliver stability within engineering construction.

“The NAECI agreement has delivered industrial peace for nearly three decades. Unfortunately, some bad employers are cherry picking the agreement or ignoring it completely. As a result, for the first time in many years, there is widespread unrest across this sector. It’s time for employers to get back round the table and agree a fair way forward.”

One of the key areas of concern to Unite is the lack of transparency surrounding the application of the agreement – a problem highlighted in the ACAS report into the wildcat action at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in February.

Furthermore, in March, the ECIA was forced to admit that overseas workers at the Isle of Grain were being underpaid by over 30% - £10.01 an hour instead of £14.00. This information only came to light because a Polish construction worker allowed Unite to translate his contract of employment revealing the underpayment. Under the agreement there is no effective mechanism for unions to check if employers are keeping to the agreement.

Unite is also calling on the government to introduce a more robust and fair interpretation of the EU Posted Workers directive. Unite believes the government has not enacted the proper interpretation of the directive, which should allow posted workers to be covered by national agreements.

So far the only protection the UK government has given to posted workers is the national minimum wage. This is just a fraction of the rates of pay skilled workers covered by the NAECI should earn and allows for the legal undercutting of the agreement.

Unite's national officer Tom Hardacre said: "As the government has failed to implement the Posted Workers Directive in the way it should have done, we are now left to pick up the pieces. We therefore ask the government to implement the directive straight away.

“We are also calling on the government to act immediately and persuade the national employers and the energy providers that we need a transparent, robust agreement to give the industry confidence going forward, and to support the building of the huge programme of new power stations that the UK needs. "


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