Hinkley C, photo schoella (Creative Commons)

Hinkley C, photo schoella (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Tom Baldwin, South West Socialist Party organiser

Workers building the Hinkley C nuclear power plant in Somerset have won back unpaid wages after more than 500 staged a two-day sit-in protest.

The dispute arose when workers were sent away on 1 March, as the site was closed due to extreme winter weather.

As with other large construction projects, many workers had travelled from across the country to work on the site and so were unable to return home.

They remained in their digs, ready and available to work their scheduled shifts over the weekend. They were only prevented from working by the heavy snow.

On their return to work on 6 March however, workers for contractors Kier and BAM Nuttall were informed by text that they would not be paid for the days the site was closed.

Trade union agreements state that workers should be paid in these circumstances but the employers were trying it on.

The power station being built for EDF Energy will be the most expensive structure on Earth when completed, at £19.6 billion.

The contractors concerned are giant construction firms, they’re not short a few quid and yet they tried to pick the pockets of their staff.

But workers weren’t taking this affront lying down. Hundreds of them then began a sit-in protest in the on-site canteen, refusing to move until they were paid.

Victory came on the second day of the protest. Workers will now be paid in line with union agreements, after talks between Unite the Union and EDF.

When we fight, we can win. However, workers need to be constantly vigilant. Employers already make huge profits exploiting our labour but that won’t stop them trying to rob us further in whatever way they can.

Union power and collective action are the only ways to ensure they stick to their agreements.