Unite, the UK’s construction union, has accused Merseyside police of heavy handedness following recent protests at the troubled energy from waste construction site at Hooton Park, Ellesmere Port.

Protests since March

Activists from Unite have been protesting at the site since March in protest at practices on the site resulting in a race to the bottom for construction workers’ conditions and undermining national construction agreements.

The site is on the border between Cheshire and Merseyside police and following a small relocation where the protests occur, the latter police force is now in charge of policing the entirely peaceful protests.

Protesters threatened

Unite members report that the police have already arrested one member and have threatened the other “activists with regular arrests”.

The next protest will be on Friday 23 August beginning at 05:30 until 09:00 at the Hooton Park site Wirral North Road, Ellesmere Port CH65 1AN.

The Hooton Park project is being built by Danish company Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC) at the Peel Environmental site. The site is expected to employ in excess of 400 construction workers.

Race to bottom

The demonstrations are a result of the refusal of BWSC to observe the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI). While BWSC has said that it will pay rates in line with the NAECI agreement, it won’t observe rules on overtime pay and other benefits.

Unite has been denied access to the site to speak to and recruit the workforce.

Deeply sinister

Unite regional officer Steve Benson said: “The heavy handed approach of Merseyside police is deeply sinister.

“Construction activists are taking part in legitimate peaceful protest and the police announcing that there ‘will be regular arrests’ indicates the police have got a clear agenda.

“Construction activists have been holding regular protests, opposing the attacks on terms and conditions, which is creating a race to the bottom for skilled construction workers.

“Workers are also alarmed that the project has failed to recruit skilled local construction workers and instead opted to recruit workers from further afield.

“Merseyside police need to learn from their Cheshire counterparts who have always policed the protests in a consensual manner.

“Merseyside police need to change their approach or action needs to be taken to ensure that the fundamental right to peacefully demonstrate is maintained.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.