GMB National Officer Arrested at BP Saltend in Hull

4 May 2011

GMB national officer Phil Whitehurst was arrested this morning while he was attending the lawful protest against the lock out of 430 workers at the BP site at Saltend, Hull this morning. Mr Whitehurst is in police custody at Hull police station and video footage that he took of this morning’s event has been confiscated. GMB legal officers have been in contact with the police and have made clear that the Union will challenge the police over this arrest at a legal protest.

New talks in the dispute were convened yesterday by ACAS and Mr Whitehurst was diverted from a meeting in South Wales by Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary to attend the BP dispute talks at Hull this morning.

Talks before Easter, convened by ACAS, failed to resolve the dispute over the lock out of 430 engineering construction workers at BP’s Saltend site. A mass meeting on 21st April of the members lock out rejected an offer to buy out their rights and vowed to continue the dispute until they are allowed back to work at Saltend. The members resume the protest demonstrations outside the site and the first protest demonstration took place on the 21st April. These workers have been locked out of the site since 14th March 2011.

In the middle of last month GMB announced a four part plan to end the lock out of the 430 workers locked out at the BP construction site in Saltend in Hull. The four point plan is as follows:

GMB has started a hardship fund with an initial donation of £100,000. GMB has issuing an appeal for further funds from other parts of the trade union movement and has put in place arrangements for financial support for the Saltend victimized workers from all engineering construction sites in the UK.
A national meeting of Shop Stewards from all the engineering construction sites in the UK will take place to discuss the deterioration in industrial relations in the industry. This meeting is scheduled for 27th April 2011 in Leeds.
GMB is issuing a site alert regarding the BP Saltend site to all its members in all trades in the construction industry as the union is concerned that any worker offered employment on the site will need to firmly establish that the financial support is available to enable the project to be completed.
GMB also plan to bring the injustice of this situation and the workers protest to a wider audience of public and civil institutions.

At a meeting on Wednesday 30th March 2011 the project manager, part of the Jacob Group, were told by GMB officials that the way to resolve this lock out is for the workers to be allowed to go back to work. A series of meetings convened by ACAS between 10th April and this week have failed to resolve the dispute as the company has refused to allow the workers to return to work.

BP, Du Point and British Sugar make up a consortium Vivergo Fuels Ltd which is client for this project to build the £200m bio ethanol fuel plant. Vivergo Fuels Ltd awarded the contract to manage the project to Aker Process part of the US Jacob Group. The role of the project managers is to source tenders for the contract to build the plant.

The engineering construction workforce at Saltend was employed by a range of contractors under the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry. Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd was awarded the contract for mechanical piping within the scope of work in February 2010 with 316 manual workers and 134 staff workers. Other contractors are DSL (Deborah Services Ltd) Scaffolding with 63 manual workers, SEC Electrical 40 manual workers, Syntex Engineering Services with 17 manual workers, FB Taylor with 10 manual workers and Mammoet Cranes with 15 manual workers .

On 11 March 2011 notice was served upon Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd by Vivergo Fuels Ltd for performance related issues, thereby terminating any agreement between themselves and Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd. Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd issued a communiqué to the workers stating that as from 07.31 on Monday 14 March 2011 they will no longer be employed by them and should turn up for work to be transferred under TUPE legislation to either Vivergo Fuels Ltd or any contractor that is given the contract. When the members turned up for work on Monday 14th March, Aker Process Ltd on behalf of Vivergo Fuels Ltd denied any liability to employ the transferred staff.  This left GMB members in an impossible situation in that they were locked out and have not received any wages since 07.31 a.m. on 14th March 2011. Workers from the other contractors have been sent home on full pay.

Maria Ludkin, GMB National officer for Legal and Corporate Affairs said, “GMB members who have been locked out of the BP site at Hull since 11th March have been engaged in lawful, legal protest against BP and the main contractors trashing their legal rights to work on this site. Every attempt by the Union to get BP to reopen the site to allow our members to complete this engineering project has been met with a blank refusal to even acknowledge that these workers have rights which are being trampled upon.

GMB has made every effort to organise the protest in the usual way, based on our experience of lawful protest which take place around the country without any arrests. In this dispute, our officials have been harassed every day by a high volume of police, and new conditions about how the protest is conducted. Police have threatened to arrest our officials on a daily basis for acts such as taking photo’s of Union members on the protest, or stepping off a curb onto the road. It is obvious to us that the officers controlling the event, in particular, Inspector Hinch from Hullpolice, have a political agenda designed to intimidate sacked workers exercising their legal rights.

Today our national organising official was arrested for a public order offence when he went to ensure there were a prescribed number of 20 protesters penned in on a traffic island. He is in custody in Hull police station and the video footage that he took of all this morning’s events have been confiscated by the police. GMB will challenge any charge in the courts. We will use the video footage of the events. GMB is preparing a complaint to the Police Complaints Authority, in relation to the provocative and overbearing policing of this dispute.”