Trade Union Bill

Further written evidence submitted by GMB (TUB 48)


GMB would like to submit this written evidence as a follow up to both Paul Kenny’s appearance before the Bill committee and representations made by SITA UK and their Chief Executive.

Purpose of this evidence
We feel it necessary to put on record the position of GMB in this dispute as the committee heard a very one sided account from Mr Palmer – Jones during his committee appearance. We will cover here some of the particular details in relation to the dispute and the potential impact of the Trade Union Bill alongside providing a background to the dispute for Members can understand the context in which this situation has come into being.

Background information
The campaign on Teesside around SITA SembCorp UK (SSUK) involves the exploitation of migrant labour and the undercutting of nationally agreed pay scales for construction work.

There are around 60 subcontractors at work on the new Energy from Waste facility, overseen by managing contractors Glugston /CNIM.

SSUK have continually refused to sign up to the National Agreement for Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) which sets ‘comprehensive terms and conditions of employment for hourly-paid engineering construction workers on major engineering construction projects, repair and maintenance sites and events/outages throughout the UK’ [1] – it is the applicable rate for workers on this new build site. A Category 1 craft worker should be paid €22.50 per hour (£16.10 p/h).

Despite the refusal to sign up to the national agreement, SSUK’s agents Andrew Stokes and Douglas Annan have consistently maintained that workers on the Wilton site are paid at or above the applicable NAECI agreed rates of pay. However, after speaking to local people and migrant workers, it became apparent that workers were not being paid at the appropriate rate. SSUK’s pay audit may show differently, but that is because they are using different national agreements – ones which mean a lower rate of pay and are completely inappropriate for the job descriptions on the site – to make their figures work.

A site visit in August 2015 by concerned unions, on which we were accompanied by independent translators, proved that migrant workers were being underpaid, receiving on average €10 per hour which equates to £7.29. Even the lowest paid nationally agreement would see a rate of £11.33 per hour.

When the local community raised the issue and started to campaign, what we can only consider a ‘token’ number of local workers were brought in and paid on the £16.10 NAECI pay rate. These workers were subsequently paid off after a short employment term.

The trade unions involved have offered to pay for an independent forensic pay audit – with the appropriate national agreements in mind - to clear up the issue and show what the extent of the problem is because SSUK’s own audit did not take the appropriate pay scales into account.

The background to this is important because it is why there are tensions in the area and why local people are protesting about the behaviour of SSUK regarding their economical use of the truth with regards to pay rates to the migrant workers on the Wilton 11 project. The protests and regulation of them were covered by Mr Palmer-Jones during the evidence session on October 15th.

Protesting at Wilton 11
The protests that are routinely held at Wilton are exactly that "Protests", they are not picket lines and are not subject to the measures in this Bill.

Not a single arrest has been made around the ‘protests’ in regards to intimidation, aggravated trespass or indeed any other activity.

Relations between campaigners from the Teesside Construction Committee are convivial; there is mutual respect between police and protesters.

SITA SembCorp agent Patrick Pogue did raise a complaint with the police but with no substantial evidence to back it up, no arrests were made as a result.

The protests have been lawful and peaceful.

What constitutes a picket line
During his evidence sessions SSUK’s Chief Executive continually confused the term ‘picket line’ with ‘protest’ and seemed to suggest that the measures within this Bill should be expanded to other forms of protest.

In response to Q 282 referring to earlier statements about intimidation on a picket line (which was not a picket line as there is no industrial action involved):

David Palmer-Jones: I was not actually there yesterday, but we had reports back from my staff. Again, there is a movement from the Wilton construction site to our own sites and threats of other, secondary protesting. That was why I was very keen to come today, to explain the grey area that could expand.

Q 283 Victoria Prentis: It would be very helpful to hear more about that.

David Palmer-Jones: This is something that is very much condoned by the unions. When I meet with Merseyside and those unions, I am meeting the senior national levels of the union, which in some way tacitly approve of the tactics being deployed up in Teesside at the moment. We have a situation where council employees who are delivering household waste vehicles to the site feel quite intimidated to go across a picket line and a protest that is very much dressed in the union colours and waving union flags. They do not want to cross what is not an industrial action. This is very important to understand: there is no industrial action on any of our sites, yet I am still facing the difficulty of a sponsored, wider protest that is of a more national scale.

GMB would like the following points to be recorded:

· Protests are not picket lines. The protesters may be trade union members but they are there on behalf of the autonomous Teesside Construction Committee which is a locally organised campaign to highlight something the local community feel very strongly about. It is not a part of any union and is not partaking in industrial action.

· There is no intimidation occurring. If intimidation and abuse were happening the police would rightly be involved. We refer to our earlier point that no arrests have been made.

· Mr Palmer-Jones seems to infer that the rules for pickets should apply to all protests or at the very least even more regulation should apply to protests. We find that assertion quite remarkable and would urge the committee to stand up for the very basic rights to the freedom of speech and freedom of association.

October 2015


[1] The National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) , http://www.njceci.org.uk/national-agreement/

Prepared 28th October 2015