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PensionDanmark meets UK unions over claims of wage-undercutting

Representatives of two of the biggest trade unions in the UK met staff at PensionDanmark this morning over a dispute regarding Croatian workers on two biomass plants the fund invests in.

The unions – Unite and GMB – claim Croatian workers are being underpaid in contravention of union agreements at two power plants owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP). PensionDanmark, the DKK221bn (€29.7bn) labour-market pension fund, is CIP’s biggest investor, alongside other institutional backers.

The two power plants concerned are the biomass-fuelled power plant in Rotherham, and a biomass-fired combined heat and power plant project in Kent.

Jens-Christian Stougaard, director of PensionDanmark, told IPE: “We had a very pleasant meeting this morning with four representatives from the UK unions.

“When we invest – being directly or through CIP – we have, among other things, clauses regarding wage and work conditions which also apply to subcontractors. Of course we do not support undercutting rates.”

Some of the points discussed at the meeting had been put forward before, Stougaard said. There had been an ongoing dialogue between the parties involved: Babcock & Wilcox Vølund, Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC), and the two unions.

The meeting was part of a programme of action scheduled today in Copenhagen by members of Unite and GMB, which together have around 2m members across various UK industries.

Union members handed out leaflets in the city encouraging the Danish public to sign a petition calling on the Danish government to launch an investigation into what the unions called social dumping.

The unions claimed that at the Rotherham project, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund was sub-contracting work to Croatian company Duro Dakovic, which had ignored the appropriate collective agreement and was paying workers the minimum wage of £7.20 (€8.44) an hour, less than half the rate in the collective agreement for engineering construction workers (NAECI).

Meanwhile at the Kent project, BWSC did not allow trade unions on their site and refused to follow the NAECI agreement, Unite and GMB said.

Unite national officer for construction, Bernard McAulay, said: “It is the height of hypocrisy when companies turn a blind eye to allow the exploitation of workers in the UK to boost profits, when such practices are illegal in Denmark.”

After the meeting, McAulay told IPE PensionDanmark had said they would come back to the unions and that further meetings would take place.

“The key for us is that they listened, and I do believe they’ll do something going forward,” he said.

While trade union collective agreements are legal and binding in Denmark, they are not in the UK.

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