Sita Sembcorp UK has rejected calls by the unions for a forensic wage audit after contractors were accused of “exploitative” employment practices and undercutting wages on an energy-from-waste plant in Teesside.
SSUK confirmed that it would not be carrying out the audit despite claims that contractors working on its Wilton 11 plant had been paying foreign workers below agreed industry pay levels.
The news comes just two weeks after three construction unions visited the plant with an independent interpreter to review working conditions.
According to GMB, Unite and Ucatt unions, representatives sent to the site discovered a number of overseas workers were being paid well below the National Joint Council for Engineering Construction Industry’s (NJC) pay agreements.
SSUK responded to the accusations by saying that it would be carrying out an investigation into the claims, which would be concluded in seven working days.
Union officials received a response from SSUK last week, in which the company said it had not finished its investigations despite the deadline passing.
The company also said it would be rejecting the unions’ calls for an independent forensic wage audit at the site.
Speaking to Construction News, Unite regional officer Steve Cason said: “Sita haven’t concluded their investigations yet, which is disappointing because we believe they have got something to hide.
“They have also refused a forensic wage audit and that is crucial because if we can get that agreed and get an independent person to do the books, then we can find out exactly who is being paid what.
“But, of course Sita are still digging their heels in.”
Ucatt regional secretary Denis Doody added: “It is about time Sita came clean; if they want to blow these allegations out of the water they should go ahead and let there be a wage audit.”
SSUK has confirmed to Construction News it will not be allowing a forensic wage audit and that the investigation is still ongoing.
A spokesman for SSUK said: “There are quite a lot of allegations from the unions and we want to investigate these claims thoroughly.
“We have got back to the union on some of these points but there is still a lot more to do.
“We want to investigate all the points that are raised thoroughly and we will put out a statement once those investigations are concluded.”
According to the unions, they has now received the support of local MPs and MEPs in the area.
At a meeting last Friday, Labour MPs for Redcar, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Stockton, alongside MEP for the North-east Judith Kirton-Darling, all pledged their support for an independent audit.