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No SITA Injunction Against GMB Members

Friday, November 13, 2015

SITA Fails To Get Injunction Against GMB Members In Royal Courts Of Justice In London On 13th Nov To Stop Teesside Undercutting Protests

This failure by SITA use the courts to bully and intimidate workers and protesters will be welcomed by all who hold the right to peaceful demonstration as a civil right in a democratic country like Britain says GMB.

GMB, union for engineering construction workers,  has defeated the attempt by SUEZ (formerly SITA UK and still trading as SITA UK Ltd) to use the courts to stop protests  by GMB members on Teesside over undercutting by £6 per hour energy from waste construction site at Wilton near Redcar being built for Merseyside Waste Authority.  See notes to editors for GMB press releases and news media reports with details of the dispute about undercutting and exclusion of local workers from the site.

SITA failed in an application for an injunction against GMB members to stop the protests in a hearing  that took place from 10.30am today (13th November) in Royal Courts of Justice in London. GMB provided legal representation to members named in the application for injunction.

Maria Ludkin, GMB National Officer for Legal and Corporate Affairs,  said “GMB knew that this was an overbearing application against our members. We are pleased that the Court agreed and threw out the application and rejected any suggestion that GMB members had acted unlawfully.

This failure by SITA use the courts to bully and intimidate workers and protesters will be welcomed by all who hold the right to peaceful demonstration as a civil right in a democratic country like Britain.

GMB will continue to provide legal assistance to protect the rights of union and non-union citizens of our country from this type of corporate misuse of our legal system.”

End

Contact: Maria Ludkin 07956 632 657 or Michael Blench 07870 176748 or Phil Whitehurst 07968 338810 or the GMB press office on 07921 289880.

Notes to editors

1 Copy of GMB press release dated 23rd September

GMB TO PRESS MERSEYSIDE WASTE AUTHORITY AT 30TH SEPT MEETING FOR FORENSIC AUDIT AFTER TWO SUBCONTRACTORS ARE SACKED AT REDCAR SITE

Under NAECI agreement forensic audits are a normal part of establishing which worker is paid what and what is actually being paid into workers bank accounts says GMB

GMB, the union for engineering construction workers, commented on a report that CNIM/ Glugston have dismissed two subcontractors at the waste to energy plant being built by SITA Sembcorp in Wilton, near Redcar. See notes to editors for copy report in Northern Echo dated 23 September 2015.

Phil Whitehurst, GMB National Officer for construction, said "There is a meeting in Liverpool on Wednesday 30th September with the  client of the Wilton 11 project Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority.

GMB will tell them that this news of the sackings by the CNIM/ Glugston consortium shows that trades unions claims of wage undercutting and potential exploitation is now credible. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release dated 24 August.

We will press the client to order SITA Sembcorp, its managing construction company, to order a full forensic audit of every subcontractor on the site to uncover the full extent of the wage undercutting and potential exploitation of the migrant workers by all its subcontractors.

SITA has consistently told the trades unions that all engineering construction work is paid in accordance or above the National Agreement for Engineering Construction (NAECI).

There is now little or no work on the site covered by the other national agreement for building and civil construction work which is the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) working rule agreement. So all work on this site should be covered by NAECI so there should be no further confusion about this.

Under NAECI forensic audits are a normal part of establishing which worker is paid what and what is actually being paid into workers bank accounts. The trade unions have offered to finance this full forensic audit but so far this offer has been declined by SITA Sembcorp".

End

2 Copy of report in Northern Echo dated 23 September 2015

Sackings over wage dispute at new Sita Sembcorp plant

Steven Hugill / 2 hours ago / Business News

BOSSES behind a £250m energy plant have sacked sub-contractors as a wage wrangle takes a new twist.

CNIM Clugston Wilton, which is overseeing the build of the Sita Sembcorp UK plant, in Wilton, near Redcar, has ripped up two firms’ contracts.

The move follows union allegations of wage undercutting at the site.

Sita Sembcorp UK has always rejected the claims and says principal contractor CNIM has carried out an investigation into more than 60 sub-contractors’ pay rates.

Officials say the move found the vast majority are offering salaries above national agreements.

However, two firms have seen their agreements torn up after failing to give any evidence, which CNIM says is proof of its commitment to providing a fair workplace.

The waste-to-energy plant’s construction has been dogged by union dissention, with hundreds of protesters demonstrating near the factory over pay, alleged favouring of foreign workers, poor treatment of migrant staff and a disregard for safety.

Sita Sembcorp UK has consistently denied the accusations, and always said it doesn’t agree with any claims about the factory build.

Referring to its pay investigation, a SITA Sembcorp UK spokesman said: “We have received a number of allegations from union members, all of which have been investigated thoroughly and the vast majority of which are baseless.

“There is no question the site is being run to extremely high standards, with excellent health and safety practices, and all sub-contractors are paying rates in line with English law.

“Furthermore, we have not sought, nor obtained any financial benefit from the use of overseas contractors at the expense of domestic UK contractors in the construction of this facility.

“We expect all workers to be paid in line with the National Agreement for the Engineering and Construction Industry or the Construction Industry Joint Council - Working Rule Agreement, wherever they are from.

“Our position is clear and has been the same throughout discussions with union representatives.

“If any sub-contractors are found to be paying less than the appropriate rates of pay, no matter how small the differential, then we will apply pressure to ensure this is rectified immediately.

“We have the assurances of CNIM that any sub-contractor that fails to comply will be dismissed from the site.”

The plant is due to open next year, and is expected to convert more than 400,000 tonnes of household waste from Merseyside into electricity and steam.

It will create about 50 permanent jobs when work starts.

However, unions, including Unite, GMB and Ucatt, say they will continue applying pressure on the companies behind the development, with a protest expected to take place outside Sita’s base in Haverton Hill, near Billingham, today (Wednesday, September 23), and another set for Wilton on Friday.

3 copy of GMB press release dated 24th August 2015

GMB SITE VISIT REVEALS ‘EXPLOITATIVE’ EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES AND UNDERCUTTING AT TEESSIDE ENERGY-FROM-WASTE-PLANT

SITA are treating migrant workers deplorably and not paying anywhere near our nationally agreed rates, less than half in most cases says GMB

Construction unions GMB, Unite, and UCATT today (Monday 24 August) called on Sita and Semcorp to intervene and stop contractors building the energy-from-waste plant at Wilton on Teesside undercutting pay rates and using ‘exploitative’ employment practices.

The call follows an onsite visit by the three unions with independent interpreters, which revealed migrant workers being paid barely above the minimum wage and having to pay employee and employer national insurance contributions because they were employed through umbrella companies. See notes to editors for definition of umbrella company.

Conditions on the site rode a ‘coach and horses’ through national agreements covering the construction industry said the unions which warned of a culture of fear taking root on the site.

Michael Blench GMB Regional Officer said: "After visiting the SITA site I was appalled to find the treatment of the migrant labour. I have given a full account to SITA on these matters.

The site visit took place on Monday 17th August 2015 with 3 interpreters: one Croatian, one Punjabi and one Polish. Each of the interpreters is also fluent in a number of other languages.

The mechanical fitters are paid 9 to 10 Euros - all differently. The highest paid were a couple of welders who were paid 13 Euro an hour. They were lodging in Stockton. Most of them said that the lodgings were paid for by the company Bilfinger Duro Jackewiz. A few said there were deductions for lodgings which were taken off their wages. There was no holiday pay for anybody spoken to. After 3 months some were paid leave to return home and some not.

Croatian and Bosnian are treated differently. Bosnians have to pay 20% off wages to an agent when they returned home. There was multiple and excessive use of umbrella companies with everyone on different rates.

SITA are treating these workers deplorably and not paying anywhere near our national rates, less than half in most cases.

As usual the small amount of local labour on site has been paid off and more migrant labour is being brought in, with little attention paid to their safety or their welfare.

SITA are a prime example of a company abusing local communities making excessive extortionate profit on the back of their employees’ misery.

Andy Stokes, SITA Project Director has again ignored our pleas for national rates to apply and whitewashed any investigations into our findings. It is now for the client and the political parties on Merseyside to conduct a full audit and stop exploitation on site.

GMB will fight vigorously to maintain the national pay standards and our member's dignity in the face of unscrupulous employers like SITA."

Commenting Unite regional officer Steve Cason said: “We have suspected all along that the undercutting of pay and the exploitative use of umbrella companies is taking place on the site.

Now we know it’s true and that a coach and horses is being ridden through national agreements established to maintain standards and ensure workers are paid a fair days pay for a fair days.

This race to the bottom and exploitation of workers has got to stop with Sita and Semcorp intervening to ensure people are paid in line with national agreements.”

Denis Doody, Regional Secretary for construction union UCATT's Northern Region, said: "The level of exploitation being suffered by workers at Wilton is disgusting. The employers undertaking this exploitation have no shame or morality. They are just interested in making large profits as quickly as possible.

SITA and Semcorp can no longer turn a blind eye and most intervene to end this workplace misery."

ENDS

Notes to editors

What is an umbrella company?

Phil Whitehurst, GMB National Officer for construction, said “An umbrella company is a company that acts as an employer to agency workers like construction and other workers. So instead of their being two parties the contractor and the worker, umbrella arrangements usually involve four parties – the worker, the contractor, the agency and the umbrella company.

On construction sites there will be a main contractor, and often multiple layers of subcontractors, employment agencies but the worker’s employment contract is with the umbrella company, not the agency. 

Normally the agency will agree a job and pay rate with a contractor and then contact the worker about the job.  The umbrella company receives the payment from the contractor for the work done by the worker.  It processes the payment, deducting PAYE income tax, employee’s and employer’s National Insurance contributions and the umbrella company’s fee. 

The residual sum is then paid to the worker as net pay. Often workers are officially paid at the national minimum wage, despite having negotiated a pay rate far in excess of this figure. Pay is then partially re-boosted through scams using expenses, performance related pay and other methods.

Payslips are often so complex that workers tell us that they do not understand how their pay is being calculated.

Many umbrella companies also withhold an amount of money that should be paid to the worker at a later date in the form of holiday pay but is not paid.

The benefit to construction companies and agencies of using umbrella companies is that of reducing tax and national insurance liabilities.  These  liabilities and other costs, including the cost of the employer’s NI contributions and the umbrella company fee for providing payroll services,  are passed on to the construction workers. This is an abuse.

We have construction companies negating their responsibilities of direct employment by using these parasitic umbrella companies and forcing workers into accepting the terms offered or they quite simply don't get the work.

These spurious tax avoidance contracts leave staff with no employment or financial stability. They are very often put on zero hours contracts with holiday and other payments rolled up into one composite rate of pay. Workers are then forced by the very nature of the contracts to pay both the employees and the employers National Insurance contributions. This can cost them up to £120 per week. These parasitic companies then have the brass neck to charge between £20 - £30 admin fees per week for their troubles.

The practice of using umbrella companies is spreading to other sectors of the economy. The Government must step in to deal with these four party tax avoidance abuses and scams which are costing workers income and the Exchequer much needed revenues.” 

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