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Fri April 23 2021

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Sita Sembcorp tells CNIM Clugston to respond to exploitation claims

25 Aug 15 Sita Sembcorp is urging the main contractor building its waste-to-energy plant in Teesside to respond to union allegations of worker exploitation.

Sita Sembcorp is promising ‘robust action’ against main contractor CNIM Clugston should it find any substance to allegations about worker welfare or site safety being compromised.

As previously reported, construction unions GMB, Ucatt and Unite have accused Sita Sembcorp of exploiting immigrant workers at the Wilton plant and of treating them ‘deplorably’.

Sita Sembcorp UK has now responded, rebutting many of the unions’ allegations and pointing out that the workers are employed – albeit indirectly – by main contractor CNIM Clugston and its subcontractors, and not by Sita Sembcorp. The treatment of the workforce is thus CNIM Clugston’s responsibility.

To read our original report, click or tap here.

Here is Sita Sembcorp’s full response to the unions’ allegations:

“Sita Sembcorp UK (SSUK) facilitated a formal access visit by trade union representatives to the Wilton 11 Energy from Waste Facility Construction site on Monday 17th August. This union visit was the second such formal access that Unite, GMB and Ucatt have had to workers on this project. The individual workers employed on site are not employees of SSUK, SITA or Sembcorp but are employed by CNIM Clugston and their subcontractors. The press release issued by the GMB makes reference to SITA employees – this is erroneous.

“Of a workforce of approximately 750 people on site, employed by more than 30 different subcontractors working for CNIM Clugston, we understand that a dozen or so individuals chose to meet with union representatives on the 17th August. Following these meetings, the unions relayed a number of issues arising from them and asked SSUK to investigate with CNIM Clugston. Conversely, following the meetings, the unions agreed to drop a number of previous allegations which had been shown to be baseless.

“SSUK has subsequently written to CNIM Clugston demanding a detailed response to these issues and, more importantly, evidence to either substantiate or refute each individual claim.

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“A time frame of seven working days to respond was committed to with the unions, in order to allow both SSUK and CNIM Clugston to investigate these matters properly. That time frame has not yet lapsed.

“SSUK does not agree that workers employed on site are ‘exploited’ or being treated ‘deplorably’ and CNIM Clugston has consistently led us to believe that all workers on site are paid a rate equivalent to the unions’ respective voluntary working rate agreements – which are at the centre of this debate.

“If any of the allegations are proven to be true, SSUK will take robust action against CNIM Clugston to ensure that any anomalies or problems are immediately rectified.

“Throughout this long-running dispute, workers employed on site have not been involved in union-supported protest action, nor have they complained to SSUK or CNIM Clugston about their pay or terms of employment despite every opportunity to do so and, indeed, pressure to do so by the unions and activists.

“We do, however, acknowledge the allegations made by the trade unions as a result of meeting with some of the workforce and we have launched a full and proper investigation into these claims. 

“From prior investigations, we are however, clear on our position in respect of the legality of all employment practices on site and that, while umbrella contracts are used in some instances, these comply with all HMRC guidance and applicable UK laws.”

“Any suggestion that workers welfare or safety on site is compromised, or is in any way linked to the union’s complaints about their working rate agreement, is completely disingenuous. 

“SSUK is placing substantial pressure on CNIM Clugston to respond to these allegations and we will respond to the unions, and the wider project stakeholders, in due course and with a factual basis.”

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