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Thursday 13th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

Bosses exploit imported workers on poverty pay at energy plants in Yorkshire and Kent

by Peter Lazenby

CONSTRUCTION workers mounted nationwide protests yesterday at building sites where bosses have torn up national agreements to employ imported labour on poverty pay.

Unite and GMB members said that firms based in Denmark are undercutting agreed wages by as much as 61 per cent. That’s illegal in Denmark but not in Britain.

Both unions delivered a petition bearing over 5,000 signatures to the Danish embassy in London at 11am, demanding its government investigate the scandal.

Protests took place at energy and waste project sites at Rotherham in South Yorkshire, Sandwich in Kent and the offices of Babcock & Wilcox Volund in Solihull, West Midlands.

The unions say that Babcock & Wilcox Volund, which is building a £165 million energy-from-waste plant in Rotherham, subcontracts to Croatian company Duro Dakovic, which pays workers as little as the minimum wage.

This is despite the unions’ national agreement having a basic rate of £16.97 an hour with an hourly bonus of £2.37 an hour.

Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor is the principal contractor at the Sandwich project, worth £175m.

The company refuses to allow unions access to the workforce and does not pay the hourly bonus, industry sick pay, enhanced holiday pay, travel and accommodation allowances and other benefits.

Both projects are being financed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, the investment arm of PensionDanmark.

The organisation has clear corporate social responsibility policies which should apply to the organisation’s supply chains both domestically and abroad, but these are being flouted.

Unions point out that the Danish government has clear policies in place, due to the way it has interpreted the European Union’s 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.

Unite national officer Bernard McAulay said: “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.”

GMB national officer Phil Whitehurst said if the companies tried their exploitation and social dumping practices in Denmark they would be jailed.

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