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Sit-in at 'lock-out' biofuels plant

Workers staged a sit-in today at the site of a new biofuels plant which has been at the centre of a row for weeks after hundreds of employees said they had been “locked out” of the contract.

Hundreds of construction workers held a meeting outside the Saltend site near Hull and were told that talks at the conciliation service Acas had broken down last night.

They decided to stage a sit-in at the plant, which is being built by several contractors for energy giant BP.

The GMB has launched a hardship fund and called a national meeting of shop stewards to discuss a deterioration in industrial relations in the industry as a result of the dispute.

Officials said the continuing row at Saltend was “reprehensible”, claiming that employers did not care about the fate of the 430 workers involved.

They have been out of work for nearly a month after the project fell behind schedule, leading to claims that they have been locked out of the job.

The union has donated £100,000 to the hardship fund and has called a shop stewards’ meeting for April 18, saying that industrial relations in the engineering construction industry have deteriorated.

A protest is also being planned outside BP’s annual meeting in London on Thursday.

Les Dobbs, regional official of the GMB, said today: “The employers walked out of the Acas talks although the unions were prepared to continue talking to try to resolve this dispute.

“We will now press ahead with a protest outside BP’s annual meeting.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “It is reprehensible that neither the contractors nor the site’s owners, BP, seem to care about these 430 workers who have been locked out. GMB does care and will escalate the campaign for justice.

“There are growing fears that this ‘lock-out’ is nothing more than a ruse to bring in a different, lower paid workforce.”

Vivergo Fuels, speaking on behalf of the new site, said in a recent statement that it had terminated a contract with Redhall Engineering Solutions (RESL) last month following “significant performance issues”.

It added: “This contract should have been fully completed in February and yet the construction is less than 70% complete to date. New contracts will need to be placed but at this time there are no contractor organisations identified.

“Therefore, no new employment opportunities are currently available and this will be a matter for any potential new contractor. In view of this, it is not possible to offer any transfer of employment for the workers concerned.”