The struggle to gain employment on the new power station build at Pembroke has registered a significant success with the announcement that the Shaw Group UK has been awarded the contract to build all five boilers. This contractor has a history of employing the appropriate skilled trades and primarily from these shores.
This success has come from a combination of factors: the protests organised outside the site, where French multinational Alstom is the main contractor; the work behind the scenes of the trade union officials involved; and Alstom’s experiences both good and bad on its other jobs.
The bulk of the contracts has been handed to the British engineering construction industry and its workforce, and represent a welcome boost to the industry. A few contracts have gone to foreign companies and they will be watched carefully to ensure adherence to the recently improved NAECI (National Agreement Engineering Construction Industry – Blue Book) and they are not allowed to discriminate against British workers.
Following the success on the Isle of Grain and West Burton, Alstom is also set to look favourably (as per NAECI S2.2) on employing a National Engineering Construction Committee (NECC) senior steward approved by GMB and Unite to head up a network of workplace organisers from each company to ensure adherence to the Blue Book. This is an agreement that needs protecting and improving for the survival of the industry. Only by being on the job and organised can we exert real influence.
For the time being, Pembroke has been suspended as the focal point in terms of demonstrations aimed at ensuring the employment of British workers, in order to allow for work from “the inside” to continue uninterrupted. The struggle has not gone away and will naturally ebb and flow but it should be recognised that this represents a victory for Britain's engineering construction workers and stands us in good stead for the upcoming nuclear builds.