Trade Union Bill

Written submission from SUEZ (TUB 27)

Preamble

SUEZ (formerly SITA UK and still trading as SITA UK Ltd) is one of the largest waste and resource management companies in the UK, operating multiple facilities under relevant environmental and process based permits. We operate and have plans to develop a number of traditional and alternative treatment technologies to recover value from waste. Our day-to-day operations as well as these on-going investments are put at risk from the activities of non-striking workers during the course of an industrial dispute, be it an official dispute or a "protest", especially when so-called "leverage" tactics are employed. We therefore welcome the Government’s Consultation on tackling intimidation of non-striking workers, in particular the intention to strengthen the Code of Practice on Picketing to cover these wider disruptive and intimidatory tactics.

To this end SUEZ made a submission to the Carr Review of the law governing industrial disputes. This dispute in Doncaster is summarised briefly below, followed by a description of the protest at the Wilton 11 construction site in Redcar, Merseyside.

Doncaster

This strike by workers of the Unite Union at the SUEZ facility at Doncaster, occurred over a dispute involving pay. The demand was for a £1.00 per hour increase across the board, which amounted to a 12% pay increase.

A variety of intimidatory tactics were employed against non-strikers:

· Intimidation by strikers of employees who worked through the strike - harassing loaders whilst carrying out collections, waiting at the premises of maintenance providers (private locations).

· Union members pressurising non-union members to strike. Non-union members do not receive compensation for time off.

· Sabotage of private property - strikers visited the homes of workers, slashing car tyres and throwing paint stripper over a car.

· The Working Mens Club used by a non-striker was contacted by a striker (identity unknown) who threatened the steward of the club that if they allowed him to use the bar, the club would be vandalised. The club barred the non-striker.

· Threats of violence were made towards the site supervisors.

· Derogatory comments about the Company’s management were posted on Facebook, along with supposedly factual information that was manifestly untrue.

· On the last day of the strike, after an agreement had been reached and the workers were due to return, the Union official told the strikers that they did not need to return to work that day as they would get their compensation for the day.

The strike lasted for 3 days. A 3-year deal was agreed after strike action, with an RPI increase based on the figure prevailing in April 2012.

Wilton 11, Merseyside

Background

The project involves the construction of a 444,000 tonnes per year energy-from-waste facility for the Merseyside and Halton Waste Partnership on the Wilton 11 site leased from Sembcorp for up to 60 years. Energy generated by the facility will be fed into Sembcorp’s existing power stations. The facility will divert more than 90% of the Partnership’s residual waste away from landfill, ensuring that the region complies with its requirements under the European Union Landfill Directive.

A new company has been formed called SITA Sembcorp UK Ltd (SSUK), a joint venture between SITA UK Ltd, Sembcorp and Itochu. The Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor is CNIM Clugston Wilton Limited. The site employs over 60 contractors under the management of the EPC Contractor, who hires all site workers and agrees their terms and conditions of employment.

The project, due for completion in 2016, has received strong support from local communities. Approximately 75 long term jobs will be created to operate the facility and transfer station, with more than 200 jobs during construction, plus many more indirect jobs.

Protests at Wilton 11 are organised and led by activists from the Teesside Construction Committee (not affiliated to any trade union) with the support of the GMB, Unite and UCATT trades unions. The Committee claims that the employment of ‘cheap’ foreign workers on the energy-from-waste project is undercutting domestic workers.

The protest concerns the non-acceptance by contractors on site of the National Agreement for the Engineering and Construction Industry (NAECI) set of terms and conditions for the workers on the Wilton 11 construction site, and refusal to agree to a forensic pay audit. The trade union officials claim that their involvement in any protests is simply to protect the interests of their members.

Protests

There have been 26 protests to date.

The first protest took place in December 2014 at the gates of Wilton International industrial complex. There have since been a further 25 protests mainly at Wilton but with some at the offices of Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority in Liverpool and at the SUEZ energy-from-waste complex at Haverton Hill on Teesside.

At the start of the protests there were a large number (approximately 200) people attending; later protests have seen numbers of approximately 30 to 50 attending.

The protests have taken the form of delaying drivers entering the site by engaging each driver in a conversation about workers terms and conditions on the site and giving out a leaflet to the drivers. This has resulted in long queues of traffic and to delays in the surrounding roads of up to two hours.

Intimidation during Protests

SUEZ has witnessed a number of instances of intimidation by protestors. These include:

· A ‘foreign’ worker being stopped at the gates and a photo of his wage slip being taken by the protestors. This was allegedly deleted once the worker explained that he did not work on the Wilton 11 site.

· A ‘foreign’ worker at the SUEZ Haverton Hill site being asked to show his payslip to the protestors. No other workers were asked to supply payslips.

· The SUEZ Project Director being referred to as an ‘industrial gangster’ on video shot by protestors and being made generally available on social media (including Twitter and You Tube).

· Protestors sealing the lock on the gate at Wilton Centre, stopping vehicles accessing the site.

· Protestors blocking the gate of the SUEZ site at Haverton Hill.

· Reports of blocking cars from moving, verbal abuse of drivers, and climbing on car bonnets.

· Instances of intimidation on social media.

· Protests at the offices of Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority, SSUK’s client. This protest concluded with an invasion of the lobby of Mann island in Liverpool where MWRA’s offices are based along with the blockade by protesters of a lane of traffic outside of the building, leading to intervention by the police.

· Other examples of threats and/or intimidation to SUEZ customers or suppliers include the reported abuse of a female employee of Sabic, a company located on the Wilton International Site, as she crossed the line of protesters; a threat to disrupt and undertake ‘civil disobedience’ at the waste sector professional body’s Gala Dinner Event at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel on 16 September , and an email from a representative of the Teesside Construction Activists on 20 April, threatening direct action against SGS, a scaffolding sub-contractor employed on the Wilton 11 site.

Involvement of Trade Unions

While none of these activities relate directly to trade union officials, their complicity in encouraging disruptive and intimidatory behaviour on the part of the Teesside Construction Committee is clear.

· Annex A – Not Published

· Annex B – Not Published

· Annex C Not Published

· An nex D – Not Published

· Annex E - Not Published

Dialogue with Trade Unions

There have been several meetings with the three trade unions involved throughout the project. Most of these have been cordial but have not brought about an end to the protests.

On the employers’ side, efforts have been made to accommodate the trade unions by granting access to the site to speak to the workers (on three occasions), undertaking an audit of the workers wages on the site and providing the trade unions with high level statements to confirm that all workers are paid at least equivalent to relevant national agreement on wages for construction workers.

A meeting was arranged with unions in September 2014, independently chaired by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Initially all three unions refused to participate with ACAS involvement, but UNITE changed its mind after pressure from MWRA. GMB and UCATT reversed their decisions shortly afterwards. Further, unions insisted that the meeting should only proceed on the agreement that two named protesters be admitted. This was agreed.

At the meeting SSUK stated that it had investigated all allegations made by the trade unions and had undertaken an extensive wage audit, finding no evidence of any systematic under-payment of foreign workers at the Wilton site. SSUK offered to present detailed results of this audit to ACAS for independent verification so that trade unions could be satisfied that there is no under-payment of workers at this site. The unions have refused, insisting instead on a full forensic audit that would include handing over employees’ bank details and other confidential, personal information. SSUK does not believe this to be a reasonable request, nor is it practical with over 60 different contractors on site with a variety of wage structures paying in different currencies.

Summary

The protest at the Wilton 11 site is ongoing. The protestors report through social media that they will continue until the site adopts the NAECI terms and conditions of employment. The contractors on the site have stated that they will not adopt the NAECI terms and conditions.

Local activists undertook an initial 20 days of action, now extended to 50. They have threatened to extend their protests beyond Wilton to SUEZ operational sites elsewhere in the UK. The most recent protest is scheduled to take place at the Wilton site on Wednesday 14 October.

While SUEZ supports the right of workers to express their views through lawful protest, our experience of the actions at Doncaster and Wilton 11 highlights the grey area between official trade union-sponsored action and behind-the-scenes but nevertheless very visible trade union support for unofficial action that in both cases have frequently resorted to disruptive and intimidatory tactics in contravention of the Code of Practice on Picketing. The advent of social media has exacerbated the degree of disruption and intimidation that can be inflicted by protestors.

In our view there is a clear need to update the Code to disallow unacceptable conduct by protestors and to hold unions to account when the latter appear to be condoning breeches of the Code when supporting protest action.

We identify a number of areas that need to be addressed in a revised Code:

· The term "picketing" relates to a very specific manner of protest. In the cases of Doncaster and Wilton 11, protest action was not confined to the picket lines, but extended into the social domain of workers and company staff, and into company business. The Code should disallow these tactics, and expand its provisions to cover forms of protest other than picketing.

· Disruptive and intimidatory tactics essentially bypassed the picket line by using the outreach of social media. The Code should disallow the use of social media to incite protest or to spread threatening messages. The naming of individuals as a specific target for complaint or action should also be disallowed.

· Paragraph 37 of the Code states that a union will be held responsible for an unlawful act that occurs in the course of picketing under a highly restricted set of circumstances – such as authorisation by the union’s executive committee. None of these circumstances appear to apply in the case of Wilton 11, yet it is clear from the material presented in the Annexes that the unions helped orchestrate and certainly condoned the intimidatory actions of the protestors. The Code should widen the conditions under which unions are deemed to be held responsible under Paragraph 37, and additionally for lack of action to keep protests within the terms of the Code when that protest is supported by the union.

October 2015

Prepared 15th October 2015