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UNITE members have won the first battle in a fight against deskilling electricians at Somerset’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, the construction union said today.
Union reps stepped in after two training standards were introduced by the Engineering Construction Training Board (ECITB) that Unite said would undermine the role of electricians at the £20 billion site currently under construction.
The union said this was done without its input or agreement.
Rank-and-file members occupied the offices of EDF Energy, the French state-owned company which runs the project, threatening to blockade the site.
As a result of the protests, EDF has announced it has put the plans on hold with all training in this area, supplied by contractors NG Bailey and Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick, now postponed until a long-term solution is reached.
The disputed standards relate to cabling and containment work, the “bread and butter” work for electricians on new-build construction projects.
There are no electricians working at Hinkley Point C as this phase of the project is yet to begin, meaning no worker has been affected by the change to training standards.
General secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite will oppose any efforts to weaken the skill set of the trade which will undermine the industry by introducing non-skilled operatives.
“Any deskilling of electricians would result in a race to the bottom and would be highly damaging to industrial relations across the sector.”
Unite’s Electrical & Mechanical Combine said: “We welcome the news that all training courses will cease until our dispute has been resolved and also appreciate the statement of support from Len McCluskey.
“For over 30 years we have had to endure [this] deskilling agenda.
“Each time we have responded, and each time these companies have been forced into retreat. But they keep coming back.
“We will not tolerate these attacks any longer.”
A Hinkley Point C spokesperson said: “Hinkley Point C and its trades-union partners have agreements in place to develop UK skills and training, including a commitment to create 1,000 new apprenticeships.
“This progressive approach has been developed to maximise employment opportunities for local people and to help them develop new skills.
“Productive talks are now taking place to reach agreement on the curriculum of the new training courses.”
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