A dispute involving hundreds of construction workers “locked out” of a new biofuels site escalated today when a union launched a hardship fund and called a national meeting of shop stewards to discuss a deterioration in industrial relations in the industry.
The GMB said the continuing row at the Saltend site near Hull was “reprehensible”, claiming that employers did not care about the fate of the 430 workers involved in the row.
They have been out of work for nearly a month after the project fell behind schedule, leading to claims that they have been locked out of the job.
The GMB announced today that it has donated £100,000 to the hardship fund and has called a shop stewards’ meeting for 18 April, saying that industrial relations in the engineering construction industry had deteriorated.
GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said: “It is reprehensible that neither the contractors nor the site’s owners BP seem to care about these 430 workers who have been locked out. GMB does care and will escalate the campaign for justice.
“If BP thought that this problem would quietly disappear they lack any real knowledge about GMB and its members. BP has had ample opportunity to help resolve the dispute but they have chosen to ignore the injustice to these 430 workers.
“There are growing fears that this ‘lock out’ is nothing more than a ruse to bring in a different, lower paid workforce.
Vivergo Fuels, speaking on behalf of the new site, said in a statement that it had terminated a contract with Redhall Engineering Solutions (RESL) last month following “significant performance issues”.
It added: “This contract should have been fully completed in February and yet the construction is less than 70 per cent complete to date. New contracts will need to be placed but at this time there are no contractor organisations identified.
“Therefore, no new employment opportunities are currently available and this will be a matter for any potential new contractor. In view of this, it is not possible to offer any transfer of employment for the workers concerned.
“It remains both the legal and contractual responsibility of RESL to deal with its workforce. As the contract with RESL has been terminated, our Saltend site is no longer the place of work for the RESL employees. Therefore they have not been locked out, they simply no longer work there.
“There are 20 other contracted companies currently employed in the delivery of our Saltend-based plant, with a combined workforce of over 500 people. These remaining contractors are returning to our site this week and their work is continuing.
“Our priority is to open our world-scale biofuels business as soon as possible, bringing long term economic benefits and jobs to this area.”