Construction firm accused of showing ‘utter contempt’ to social dumping fears

The Millerhill Resource and Energy Recovery Centre
The Millerhill Resource and Energy Recovery Centre

Trade unions GMB Scotland and Unite have accused construction giant Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) of treating workers and politicians with “utter contempt” following its response to social dumping fears on the Millerhill Recycling & Energy Recovery Centre (RERC) project.

After a joint trades union meeting with the City of Edinburgh Council leadership last week, council officers received feedback from HZI to trades union questions over undercutting of the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) - commonly known as the ‘Blue Book’ - through the sub contracts and supply chains. The Blue Book exists to protect minimum pay levels, appropriate safety standards and builds in procedures for dispute resolution.

Having argued for the project to provide jobs for local people, the joint unions said that the response to the council did not contain any assurances that jobs on the project are actually being advertised locally.

Among other questions posed over concerns that Millerhill is not a NAECI site, HZI replied: “As the project is not registered as a NAECI site the NAECI agreement does not apply. However HZI Industrial Relations Policy recognises the importance and understanding of the NAECI and the essential employment relations principles on which the NAECI is founded.”

The Scottish Government has previously been informed about concerns of employment rights abuses and migrant labour exploitation on publicly funded Energy from Waste (EfW) projects at Polmadie in Glasgow and Oxwellmains in Dunbar.

GMB Scotland organiser, Gary Cook, said: “HZI bosses took a month to respond to our serious concerns over the danger of social dumping at Millerhill, only to then treat the engineering construction unions and our elected councillors with utter contempt.

“If this response is a measure of the industry’s respect for employment rights and our politics then I’m afraid the sector is going down the drain. HZI are blatantly disregarding hard fought industry minimums that exist to ensure decent work and decent pay and they clearly don’t give two hoots what the Scottish Government’s fair work agenda says.

“The company which is making money from taxpayer funded contracts described the unions’ request for access to the site as ‘not required’. Their indifference towards the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government should be a source of major embarrassment to both.”

Unite Scotland officer, Scott Foley, added: “The fact that HZI refuse to directly answer the serious concerns raised within our submitted questions and the way they have essentially refused us access to the workforce, speaks volumes.

“This construction project like so many others is being built with public money and we believe that the public expect local jobs and decent terms and conditions for workers to form an intrinsic part of the procurement process – not social dumping and worker exploitation.

“The fact that HZI aren’t prepared to commit to this or provide evidence will concern all constituents of the local authorities that this Energy from Waste plant will serve.”

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