No laws broken at Lindsey, report says

By Jonathan Moore

An inquiry into the dispute over foreign workers at the Lindsey oil refinery has concluded that no unlawful recruitment practices occurred and no laws relating to posted workers were broken.

The report, produced by arbitration company Acas, said the recession highlighted tensions surrounding the EU posted workers directive and that the complexity of the relationship between the directive and local employment agreements was “a potential source of confusion and dispute”.

It said assurances had been received by management they would abide by the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) but some issues of interpretation would have to be worked out between themselves and unions.

John Taylor, Acas Chief Executive said: “Whilst the report shows no evidence of the law being broken there is a source of tension around the posted workers directive and its application to construction work and the UK’s industrial relations system.

“These issues have been highlighted by the recession.

“This report should help focus the areas that can be usefully addressed to improve employment relations in the UK.”

Unions had expressed concerns that British workers were being discriminated against as they were not being given the opportunity to apply for the jobs given to Italian firm IREM.

The report found that since the contract was awarded for a price based on the fact that IREM would be using their own permanent work force they could not now employ British workers as Italian workers would have to be made redundant.

Concerns were expressed by unions that the bid made by IREM did not conform to the NAECI, which gave an unfair advantage over British bids complying with the agreement.

While IREM have said they will comply with the NAECI, the report noted there was no legal recourse to enforce this. Under EU law, they are only required to adhere to British minimum employment standards.

The report concluded IREM was not legally required to adhere to the NAECI, but had made a commitment to do so as part of their contract.

The report also questioned whether a level playing field could be achieved between UK-based and European construction companies given the discrepancies between their levels of income tax, social insurance and employment practices between the UK and other EU countries.