The dispute at Hinkley Point C (HPC) is over bonus payments. The Unite and GMB unions will be holding a consultative ballot of the 700-strong workforce preparing the groundworks at the Somerset nuclear power plant site. The ballot will run between 2nd and 5th May 2017.
The unions claim that BYLOR, the consortium of Bouygues TP and Laing O’Rourke, has failed to pay the bonus rate in line with the spirit of HPC Civil Construction agreement. The other main contractor on site, Kier Bam, is not currently at the negotiating table.
The unions argue that the bonus rate offered by BYLOR is insufficient to attract the quality of workers needed to ensure that that the civil works phase of the £18bn project is completed on time.
Unite regional officer and chair of the HPC joint union committee Rob Miguel said: “The Hinkley Point nuclear power station is key to the future energy needs of the UK. The project has already suffered delays and to achieve the 2025 start date for electricity generation a skilled construction workforce is required.
“If the consultative ballot eventually leads to full-scale industrial action ballot, we could be looking at delays to the construction at Hinkley Point, which will be very expensive for the employers as hired-in plant and machinery will be lying idle.
“The scheme has already been plagued by delays over its financing and can’t afford any further interruptions.
“We would urge the employers to get back around the table with senior union officials to achieve a fair settlement, so building can continue to the highest standard, safely and on schedule.”
Unite regional officer Tim Morris said: “This poor offer is unacceptable under all of the circumstances and our members came to Hinkley Point under the belief that they would receive excellent pay and bonuses.
“The employers think they can do this ‘on the cheap’ by offering a derisory bonus rate, but the workers consider it to be completely inadequate to attract and hold onto the skilled workforce necessary.”
GMB regional officer Adie Baker said: “GMB members are not prepared to accept this derisory offer on bonus payments that also threatens health and safety standards on site.”
Hinkley Point C is being built by the French energy company EDF, with backing from Chinese state-owned investor CGN.
A spokesman for EDF Energy said: “We are committed to a continuing dialogue on this issue with our contractor and trade union partners. Discussions are ongoing and our intention is to reach a mutually acceptable outcome.
“We have a strong partnership in place with the trade unions based on a set of landmark agreements that include pay and productivity. We share a commitment with them and our contract partners to provide high quality employment standards, alongside the best standard in health, safety, quality and productivity.”
When the industrial relations framework for Hinkley was agreed between the unions, EDF and BYLOR back in 2013, the then Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said: “This ground breaking agreement will ensure that workers building Hinckley Point will receive excellent rates of pay and first class conditions. This agreement will act as the blueprint for all future major construction projects.”