Wednesday, April 12, 2017

News: Unions demonstrate at Rotherham construction site


The Danish company behind the design, manufacture and operation of the new £150m biomass power plant in Rotherham has been accused of undercutting the pay rates of UK construction workers by leading unions.

A plant that will generate heat and power from carbon-neutral renewable wood pellet fuel is currently being constructed at the Firth Rixson Ickles Works at Templeborough where land and disused buildings where purchased in March 2011.

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners acquired 100% of the project that was brought forward by the Brite Partnership and a joint venture between Interserve, the international support services and construction group, and Babcock & Wilcox Vølund was awarded the contracts to work on the project.

Construction unions Unite and GMB are holding a demonstration at the site today, claiming that workers are being paid up to 61% below agreed industry rates, with some workers being paid just the minimum wage and financing their own accommodation and travel. A similar protest took place last year.

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S, the Danish subsidiary of the giant US Babcock & Wilcox Company, will operate the biomass power plant. Interserve is constructing the plant.

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund sub-contracts large chunks of their work to Croatian company Duro Dakovic which pays workers as little as the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour. The industry agreement (NAECI) has a basic rate of £16.97 an hour with an hourly bonus of £2.37 an hour.


Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners is the investment arm of Pension Denmark and GMB and Unite held a protest outside the offices earlier this week to draw attention to the ongoing exploitation and undercutting that it is financing.

The Danish government has clear policies in place, due to the way it has interpreted the Posted Workers Directive, which prevents these forms of undercutting and exploitation occurring in Denmark. However this does not legally prevent Danish companies from exploiting workers when they operate abroad.

Phil Whitehurst, GMB National Officer for Construction, said: "These engineering, procurement and Construction (EPC) management companies, funded primarily by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners - the investment arm of Pensions Denmark, have maintained they will not support any form of undercutting or exploitation by their supply chain.

"We have presented evidence to them highlighting exploitation and social dumping practices that, if carried out in Denmark, would carry a custodial sentence.

"We have endeavoured to negotiate with the construction companies responsible, but they refuse to sign up to national agreements in the UK, such as NAECI, which would put everyone on a level playing field.

"They appear to be worried the audit system would expose allegedly corrupt practices of exploitation and social dumping."
Bernard McAulay, Unite national officer for construction, added: "Construction workers are angry that Danish companies are exploiting workers and undercutting pay rates, to boost their profits.

"This exploitation cannot be allowed to go unchallenged; it is vital that workers and the general public know what companies are trying to get away with on major projects and ensure their misdeeds are brought to account.

"Unite will leave no stone unturned in our fight to end exploitation and undercutting. Companies involved in these practices need to appreciate that there will be no hiding place."

Templeborough Biomass Power Plant website

Images: GMB / twitter


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