Workers demonstrate over zero hours contracts claims at east Hull biomass plant

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 14 Aug 2017

Angry protesters are demonstrating at King George Dock this morning amid claims labourers at an east Hull construction site are being undercut by foreign workers.

Welsh-based engineering firm Harris Pye is currently contracted to a biomass facility off Hedon Road, which is set to open in March 2018.

Plans for the scheme were first submitted to Hull City Council in February 2012, detailing up to 250 jobs being created during the contraction phase.

But some local workers who have been employed on zero hour contracts at the site this year allege they have been told there is no work for them, only for workers from Portugal and Romania to be drafted in on cheaper wages.

Some of those formerly employed on the site gathered with placards at King George Dock early this morning and spoke to drivers as they headed into work.

They were joined by industrial labourers from other parts of the country, including Lincoln and Chester, in a show of solidarity.

Shaune Clarkson, regional organiser of the GMB union claimed: "We tried to contact Harris Pye for a meeting and they responded by asking "What would we hope to achieve from that?"

"We wanted reassurances that they would pay workers the nationally agreed rates of pay, and that health and safety of workers on the site is ensured.

"I've had no response since. They've said to local lads that "We'll have to let you go", and told them there's no work, and then Romanian lads have been brought in and undercut the local workforce.

Demonstrators formed an unofficial picket line near the site on Monday morning

"This is disgraceful and it creates a race to the bottom."

Andy Simpson, a pipe fitter from Hessle, was among the protesters this morning. He says he was employed on a zero hours contract between June and July at the site but soon left of his own accord because he could not tolerate the conditions.

He alleged: "I knew a group of guys who were told on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, "We don't have any work for you, we're going to let you go". Then on the Thursday the Romanian lads came in.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact they're Romanian. We don't have an issue with them. The issue is with the company and the system.

"Zero hour contracts are a cancer in our game."

One worker, who asked not to be named, claimed: "I've worked here since mid March and I still do, though I might not be after today.

Workers from other parts of the UK joined in the protest

"They paid the local lads and they replaced them with Romanian and Portuguese workers and that's basically it. They're under the rates of pay they should be on.

"There's been no communication from Harris Pye whatsoever."

Stephen McKenna, operations manager at Harris Pye, briefly spoke with protesters as the demonstration caused congestion to traffic moving onto the industrial estate.

When asked by the Mail to respond to the workers' allegations, he said: "Everything we are doing is legal.

"I don't know any of those workers that have been laid off. There's not one gentleman there that have been laid off.

"Since I've been on this project we've sacked one person, for bad timekeeping only."

When asked if Romanian and Portuguese workers were being employed on the site, Mr McKenna responded. "Have you ever been abroad? Do you know anyone who works in a bar abroad? That's your answer."

When asked again to confirm if European workers were employed on site he said: "Are they working on the docks? I don't know, you tell me."

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