Further delays to the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station could be looming due to industrial action over a payment dispute.
Unions Unite and the GMB will be holding a consultative ballot of the 700-strong workforce preparing the groundworks at the Somerset site of the £18bn project. The ballot will run between 2-5 May.
The dispute centres on the failure of the BYLOR consortium, comprising the French company Bouygues TP and Laing O’Rourke, to pay the bonus rate in line with the spirit of HPC Civil Construction agreement. The other employer, Kier BAM, is not at the negotiating table.
The unions argue that the bonus rate offered by BYLOR is insufficient to attract the quality of workers needed to ensure that that the civil works phase of the project is completed on time.
Construction on the long-delayed project began in March with EDF, the French utility leading the project, pouring concrete after receiving its first go-ahead for construction work from Britain’s nuclear regulator.
Unite regional officer and chair of the HPC joint union committee, Rob Miguel, said: “The Hinkley Point nuclear power station is key to the future energy needs of the UK. The project has already suffered delays and to achieve the 2025 start date for electricity generation a skilled construction workforce is required.
“If the consultative ballot eventually leads to full-scale industrial action ballot, we could be looking at delays to the construction at Hinkley Point, which will be very expensive for the employers as hired-in plant and machinery will be lying idle.
“The scheme has already been plagued by delays over its financing and can’t afford any further interruptions.
“We would urge the employers to get back around the table with senior union officials to achieve a fair settlement, so building can continue to the highest standard, safely and on schedule.”