Not Guilty At Saltend Lockout

16 May 2011

GMB National Official for Engineering Construction, Phil Whitehurst will attend a preliminary hearing at Hull Magistrates Court on 17th May 2011 at 11.00 to answer a public order Act charge under Section 14 in connection with the ‘lock out’ dispute at the BP site in Saltend. GMB is fully supporting our National Official who will be pleading not guilty. GMB have instructed one of the most prominent human rights firms in the country – Bindmans – to represent Phil Whitehurst and will be vigorously contesting this charge.

Mr Whitehurst was arrested on Wednesday 4th May while he was attending the lawful protest against the lock out of 430 workers at the BP site at Saltend, Hull. Mr Whitehurst was taken into police custody at Hull police station and video footage that he took of the event were confiscated. He was released later in the day having been charged with being in breach of Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Hull Magistrates Court is at, The Law Courts, Market Place, Kingston-upon-Hull, HU1 2AD.

Further talks, convened by ACAS, are due to take place at 4 p.m. this afternoon between the employers and the Unions. This follows consideration by the workforce of a proposal put by the employers to pay £3,700 to employees to end the dispute. These 430 workers have been locked out of the site since 14th March 2011.

Talks to date, convened by ACAS, have failed to resolve the dispute. 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.

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 took place on 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 today have failed to resolve the dispute as the company has refused to allow the workers to return to work.

BP, Du Pont 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 have instructed one of the most prominent human rights firms in the country – Bindmans – to represent Phil Whitehurst and will be vigorously contesting this charge.”

Les Dobbs, GMB Senior Organiser attending the talks added, “GMB is in talks with the employers seeking a formula to get members back to work and a financial settlement for those who wish to leave. At this stage the issue is being minimised in that the number of members who wish to go back to work on the site is reducing on a daily basis. If the employers do not reach a formula to allow those who want to go back to work to do so then they are being totally unreasonable.”