Unions clash over Leeds EfW project

Pressure is mounting on the contractor behind an energy-from-waste project in Yorkshire to pay workers under the terms of an industry-standard working rules agreement.

More than 600 people have signed a petition demanding that Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) act in accordance with the National Agreement for the Mechanical Engineering Industry (NAECI) on its Skelton Grange project in Leeds (pictured).

Unions Unite and GMB staged a protest last week as part of a sustained campaign to force the Swiss-based contractor, which has offices in Staffordshire, to pledge to use the deal.

the NAECI sets the terms and conditions of employment for mechanical engineering workers who are paid by the hour on a range of projects across the UK. It is led by the National Joint Council, which includes the Engineering Construction Industry Association and other bodies.

In the absence of a deal, unions said they feared low wages; avoidance of increased overtime rates, as well as travel and accommodation allowances; and a lack of skills and jobs for local people.

Leeds City Council, which granted planning permission for the project, will eventually receive the petition.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite will never allow the undercutting of pay rates and the undermining of building agreements.

“Leeds Council has the duty and the power to prevent this. He must ensure that HZI pays the correct rates of pay on this project. »

GMB National Construction Manager Charlotte Childs said: “Our members and the National Agreement have served the construction industry well. Unionized jobs are safer, better paid and well built. It makes sense to adopt the national agreement to build this project.

“GMB will hold accountable any customer or contractor who attempts to circumvent the hard-earned rights of our members. HZI needs to go around the table with GMB and Unite to bring this project under the deal.”

HZI – part of Japanese engineering giant Hitachi Zosen Corporation – is building the Skelton Grange facility for energy-from-waste developer Finallyium.

Clearance work is in progress. Once completed, the plant will process up to 410,000 tonnes of residual waste and generate 49 MW of renewable baseload electricity per year. Leeds City Council granted planning permission for the project in early 2020.

HZI Project Director, Fabrice Vonnez, said: “HZI was appointed by Afinium as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the Skelton Grange waste-to-energy facility last July. Currently, a limited workforce is now involved in the activation of works on the site.

“HZI is aware that an off-site event took place on March 1, 2022 and we are seeking to cooperate with all interested parties pursuant to this contractual agreement with Afinium.”

Leeds City Council and Finallyium have been contacted for comment.

Alice F. Ponder