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Wembley steel men reprieved

Ex-Cleveland Bridge erectors back on site as Hollandia climbs down from pay row

THE FIRST of the sacked Wembley steel erectors will go back to the stadium site next Monday following their dramatic reinstatement this week.

The deal to get all 200 workers their jobs back was agreed after day-long talks in London on Tuesday between managers from Dutch steelwork contractor Hollandia, Amicus national officer Paul Corby and GMB national secretary Keith Hazelwood.Officials from the two unions were due to meet the sacked men yesterday (Wednesday) and Hollandia bosses tomorrow to thrash out final details.

Mr Corby hailed the move as a breakthrough in industrial relations at the £757 million project. He added:

'We believe Wembley can move to a better level of performance and become a good project for all concerned.'

The men will be employed under a supplemental project agreement, which will be drawn up specifically for the site under the auspices of the National Joint Council for Engineering Construction, the body which governs the industry's 'blue book' agreement. NJC director general Lewis Sampson is taking personal charge of its implementation, which will cover overtime rates, shiftwork, welfare and health and safety matters.

Mr Corby added: 'I don't envisage any problems. All 200 are going to be re-employed as soon as possible.'

The news represents a climbdown for Hollandia, which sacked the former Cleveland Bridge workforce last month just weeks after taking them on, following disagreements over pay and conditions.

One site source said: 'Hollandia had to re-employ them.They had no choice if they wanted steel to start going up again. Hardly any steel has been lifted since. I don't know why all this happened. Maybe Hollandia wanted to look at the job for four weeks.'

The news will be greeted with relief by bosses at Multiplex, who have sat through a series of blows to the project after they ordered Cleveland off the site in June.

A Multiplex spokesman insisted that the project was 'slightly in advance of schedule'and said the Aussie contractor would not have a problem with Hollandia bringing back the sacked workers.

He said: 'The sub-contractor needs steel erectors. It's Hollandia's decision.We want to be working and, however that's done, as long as Hollandia meet the terms of their contract that's fine.'

The dispute was taken to the Trades Union Congress on Monday when a number of the sacked erectors lobbied its annual conference in Brighton where prime minister Tony Blair was delivering a keynote speech.

project was 'slightly in advance of schedule' and said the Aussie contractor did not have a problem with Hollandia bringing back the sacked workers.

He said: 'The subcontractor needs steel erectors. It's Hollandia's decision.We want to be working and, however that's done, as long as Hollandia meet the terms of their contract, that's fine.'

The dispute was taken to the Trades Union Congress on Monday when a number of the sacked erectors lobbied its annual conference in Brighton, where prime minister Tony Blair was delivering a keynote speech.

Multiplex and Cleveland, which has slapped a £20 million High Court writ on the firm for breach of contract, were in court this week in a separate legal row.