A senior GMB union official was arrested on 4 May as police stepped up their attempts to break up protests by locked-out workers at the Saltend biofuels plant construction site.
Workers have been demonstrating since 14 March, when their employer — Redhall Engineer Solutions — had its contract with Vivergo, the BP-led consortium building the plant, terminated.
Although Redhall told the workers they should turn up for work as normal, and that they would be transferred via TUPE into employment by Vivergo or by another contractor, they found themselves locked-out and without work.
Workers employed by other contractors have been sent home on full pay.
Workers have been organising daily pickets and protests outside the plant and have encountered increasingly heavy-handed policing. Maria Ludkin, the GMB’s national officer for Legal Affairs, said:
“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 photos of union members on the protest, or stepping off a curb onto the road.”
A mass meeting on 21 April rejected an offer from Vivergo to compensate them rather than allowing them to continue work. Vivergo is essentially denying any liability to employ the transferred workers, despite Redhall’s assurances that they would be able to continue to work.
Other workers, including electricians and scaffolders, have refused to cross the Redhall workers’ pickets.
Protests at the plant are continuing, and a national shop stewards’ meeting for the engineering construction industry is due to formulate a plan for developing wider solidarity.