Saltend workers demonstrated outside Hull Magistrates’ Court hearing on 17 May for GMB national officer Phil Whitehurst who was arrested on a picket on 4 May.
Whitehurst had been taking part in the regular pickets over the lockout of 430 workers from the failed £200m Vivergo Fuels Ltd bio-ethanol fuel plant project.
A group of about 30 workers and trade unionists protested outside the Court before going inside for Whitehurst’s hearing. Entering to a round of applause, he was charged under section 14 of the Public Order act, used by the police to limit the number of people at a protest to “prevent a breach of the peace”. In this case, the police decided to only allow 20 workers to protest and as there were 21, police asked Whitehurst to leave, which he allegedly refused to do. He pleaded not guilty and was granted unconditional bail until his trial which will take place between 5-7 September.
Demonstrations at the site continue, with tensions emerging between the GMB, which has been more explicit about supporting the workers, to the point of setting up a £100,000 strike fund, and Unite, which is attempting to distance itself from the dispute.
A national meeting of shop stewards in the engineering construction industry is due in late May, and will discuss spreading the dispute to other sites, including nearby Lindsey which saw enormous strikes in 2009.