A series of protests will be held on April 12 in response to what construction unions claim is undercutting and exploitation of workers by Danish companies operating in the UK.
According to Unite and the GMB, companies involved in the construction of two multimillion-pound energy-from-waste projects are paying workers up to 61% less than agreed-upon industry rates. Some are paid only the minimum wage and must pay for their own housing and transportation.
Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, the investment arm of Pension Denmark, one of Europe’s largest pension funds with £29.8 billion under management, is funding the projects. According to the unions, the organization’s corporate social responsibility policies, which should apply to the organization’s supply chains both domestically and internationally, are being ignored.
Representatives from Unite and the GMB will deliver a petition with over 5,000 signatures to the Danish embassy in London, requesting that the Danish government launch an investigation.
Protests will also be held at projects in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and Sandwich, Kent, as well as at the UK offices of one of the contractors, Babcock & Wilcox Volund, in Solihull, West Midlands.
According to the unions, B&W Volund, which is building the £165 million Rotherham project, subcontracts large portions of the work to Duro Dakovic, a Croatian company that pays workers as little as the minimum wage of £7.50 per hour. The National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) has a basic rate of £16.97 per hour with a £2.37 hourly bonus.
They also claim that Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor, the main contractor on the £175 million Sandwich project, does not pay the hourly bonus, industry sick pay, enhanced holiday pay, travel and accommodation allowances, or other benefits, and that it refuses to allow union access to the workforce.
According to Bernard McAulay, Unite’s national officer for construction, “Construction workers are enraged that Danish companies exploit workers and undercut pay rates to increase profits.
“This exploitation cannot be allowed to go unchallenged; it is vital that workers and the general public know what companies are trying to get away with on major projects and ensure their misdeeds are brought to account.”
BWSC told Builder & Engineer in a statement that it is committed to being a responsible business and upholding high ethical standards in its operations and supply chain.
It also stated that it is company policy to conduct business in accordance with applicable laws and binding international conventions, and that all subcontract work must include a specific provision requiring skilled M&E workers, regardless of nationality, to be paid at appropriate rates as set forth in the NAECI. Furthermore, BWSC’s all-inclusive rates cover entitlements such as transportation, travel, and lodging allowance.
“By accepting to work with BWSC, the suppliers undertake and warrant on behalf of themselves, their employees, agents and representatives that in the production of goods delivered to BWSC, and/or in the provision of services to BWSC, they will comply with the terms and conditions, as well as applicable laws and binding international conventions covering labour principles,” the company stated.
“Furthermore, we have a third-party audit system in place with KPMG to ensure that these terms and conditions are followed.
“BWSC has had a healthy and open dialogue with numerous UK trade union representatives from Unite and GMB over the recent years, while constructing projects in the UK, and any concerns put forward by the UK trade unions regarding rates of pay, worker welfare, health and safety, etc., have all been dealt with swiftly and it is our understanding that it has been to the satisfaction of the UK trade unions.