Union members staged a protest in Newcastle today against low pay on construction sites.
The demonstration was organised by UCATT and is part of a national campaign demanding a living wage of £7.85 an hour – £9.15 in London – for its members in the building industry.
In Newcastle it targeted the employment agency Hayes Specialist Recruitment Ltd in Mosley Street which, it says, supplies construction workers at rates as low as £7.28 an hour.
Denis Doody, Regional Secretary for UCATT, said:
“The blight of low pay in the construction industry is despicable. Companies are making huge profits, while workers are forced to work long hours in highly physically demanding roles, in all weathers, for peanuts.
“Companies expect workers to work long hours and then at the end of a gruelling week they don’t pay them enough to live on. Until construction companies start ensuring a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work we will keep exposing their greed.”
UCATT says it is concerned that on some adverts Hays Recruitment insists that candidates for jobs must supply their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The union says this is contrary to the law which clearly states that this should be supplied by the employer, who has a duty to ensure it is adequate for the job, properly fitting and the worker has been properly trained.
Mr Doody added: “Agencies need to be brought to book on their legal requirements regarding safety in the construction industry. Thousands of workers are injured every year and a major factor is companies that ignore and bend safety rules.”
A Hays spokesperson commented:
“We take our responsibility to meet our requirements with regards to the pay and health and safety of our workers very seriously.
“Pay rates are determined by employers in line with the industry, legislation and the local market.
“We work closely with our clients and have strict processes in place to ensure that we comply with the necessary legislations.
“We are unable to comment further on specific vacancies.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Jun 2015
Union chiefs Len McCluskey and Matt Wrack and left-wing author Owen Jones will top the bill at this year’s Durham Miners’ Gala.
The general secretaries of Unite and the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will be joined by the firebrand Guardian columnist on the Durham Racecourse speakers’ stage at Europe’s biggest trade union event on Sunday, July 11.
Durham Miners’ Association secretary Dave Hopper will also introduce Steve Murphy from UCATT, John McDonald from ASLEF and Chris Keates from the NASUWT.
However, Ed Miliband will be absent – organisers having decided not to invite the Labour leader.
Mr Miliband, who claimed the Labour leadership ahead of his brother David with strong union backing, became the first party boss to address the Gala since Neil Kinnock when he travelled to Durham in 2012, but has not returned since.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the 131st Gala, as dozens of brass and bagpipe bands march union and colliery banners through Durham City’s historic streets past dignitaries watching from the first floor balcony of the Royal County Hotel and to the Racecourse where, in addition to the political speeches which start at about 1pm, there will be family entertainment, campaign stalls and more.
Mr Hopper said he was very pleased with the speakers line-up.
The outcome of this week’s General Election is bound to be the central theme of the speeches; and Mr Hopper said he could not see Labour winning.
“The Scottish girl (Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon) has run rings around them.
“Miliband hasn’t come across very well. She’s putting him on the spot every time,” he said.
Last year’s Gala had a mournful feel, as guests paid tribute to the late Labour grandee Tony Benn and union leader Bob Crow.
On Gala day, the centre of Durham will be closed to traffic from 7am. Visitors are encouraged to use park and ride buses.
There is an ongoing appeal to support the continuation of the Gala. Supporters are invited to become a Friend of the event, for a minimum fee of £2 a month. For more information, visit friendsofdurhamminersgala.org
> Interesting developments ? Are the decision not to invite Miliband, and Dave Hopper’s comments about Labour’s chances the beginnings of a move away from the Labour Party ?
Source – Durham Times, 04 May 2015
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Redcar to voice concerns over jobs at a major new power plant.
Representatives from the Unite, GMB and UCATT unions protested in Redcar town centre.
It followed previous protests at the Wilton International Site near Redcar over the rate of pay given to foreign workers at the new £250m Sita facility.
Concerns have also been raised that the company was recruiting predominantly from overseas and was not adhering to nationally agreed terms and conditions.
Michael Blench, an officer for the GMB, said:
“The main reason for today is to keep up the pressure on Sita and Sembcorp, who are the landlords of the site.”
He added: “The ideal outcome from my point of view is that the site will be finished with the workforce that is there and that what we are doing sends a message.
“This situation hasn’t happened in the way we would have liked but the important thing is that if Sita ever came back to this area, they know our position from the start.
“This is a message for the future.”
Steve Cason, North-east regional officer for construction at Unite, added: “All we want to see is equality and fairness across the board.”
But Sita has denied claims made by the protesters and says it is paying the correct, nationally agreed rates to its employees.
A spokesman for the company said:
“Allegations continue to be made about the employment of foreign workers at the Wilton 11 construction site, including claims about low rates of pay and accommodation allowances.
“We continue to refute all of these allegations and there’s no evidence to support any of these claims.”
“Since construction began, a significant proportion of workers on site have been from the local area and we have made significant efforts to try and promote job opportunities to local workers. This included the organisation of a jobs fair at Redcar and Cleveland College on Thursday 19 February, to which 774 people attended.
“However, it is still necessary for a proportion of workers on site to be from wider European Union member states and it would be difficult to deliver a project of this nature without them.
“Energy-from-waste facilities require a great deal of specialist equipment which has had to be sourced from within the wider European Union. These elements are of a bespoke and sophisticated nature, meaning that some of our suppliers choose to use their own specialist and experienced workforce when they are fitted.
“All workers on site, regardless of their nationality, are employed because of their individual skills and abilities. They have a legal entitlement to work in the UK and contribute to the local economy while they are here, furthermore there is no substance to allegations that they are employed on site as a means of sourcing cheap labour.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Apr 2015
A North MP will stand up for workers rights over ‘umbrella’ companies that leave them out of pocket.
Construction employees paid by so-called umbrella companies claim they have been told to make up lost wages by claiming expenses, even fraudulently.
It is claimed that companies are getting around new government regulations forbidding them to treat workers as self-employed.
They set up umbrella companies so that the workers are not directly employed by the construction firms.
Unions UNITE and UCATT will join MPs in lobbying at the Houses of Parliament this Wednesday.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who will speak alongside union heads and other MPs, said:
“This is the latest in a long line of scams designed to help employers avoid their obligations to their employees and to taxpayers.
“The umbrella company loophole is costing construction workers in my constituency hundreds of pounds a month.
“These are the people who build our homes, schools and hospitals.
“They deserve better than to be conned out of a fair wage.
“The Government was warned about this problem a while ago, and I and other Labour MPs have been raising it in Parliament for months now, but we have been fobbed off by Ministers who don’t understand the scale of the problem.”
One electrician working at a building site in Northumberland was moved onto an umbrella scheme this year.
The worker said that since the change his wages were, on estimate, £2,500 to £3,500 down in six months.
“What they’re saying is that you’ve got to make it up on expenses,” he said.
“I talked to someone from the umbrella scheme on the phone to say that I couldn’t claim for driving and he said ‘surely one of your family uses a car. Use those petrol receipts’.
He said wages should not be reliant on expenses to recoup money lost through tax.
“Why should a trained electrician have to put up with a minimum wage?
“It’s been a struggle.”
In a recent report UCATT General Secretary Steve Murphy said:
“It was hoped that, as a result of the Government’s actions, construction workers would be paid properly and enjoy basic employment rights.
“The hope was dashed as, in order to get work, workers were forced to sign up to umbrella companies.”
But he said his members saw no increase in their wages.
“In fact they have to pay both employee’s and employer’s NI contributions, as much as a quarter of their eligible earnings,” he said.
Another worker, Andy, was in an umbrella scheme at a Teesside site.
He said he asked how to recover his wage and was told to fraudulently claim.
“They told me ‘you can claim six pounds a day for your parking,’ he said.
“The only thing was that the car park was private property – it was the site I worked at – and it wouldn’t cost me a penny.”
Umbrella companies act as an employer and accountant to clients, receiving invoices from them, paying the worker’s salary while deducting tax and a fee for their own work.
The method’s use has increased after government legislation was introduced to reduce the number of workers declared as self-employed.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Nov 2014