AROUND 500 construction workers at Hinkley C have downed tools following a dispute over pay at the nuclear power plant.

The sit-in protest in the canteen is reportedly over overtime pay from over the weekend, when the construction site shut down due to the bad weather and heavy snowfall.

One construction worker at the site said: "All construction staff are currently taking part in a sit-in strike in the canteen at Hinkley C.

"EDF is refusing to pay the weekend pay even though people stayed local ready to work. There are about 500 of us."

Asked how long the strike was expected to last, the worker said: "Until they pay us."

Another worker said: "This is not an organised, union-backed strike. We have withdrawn our labour because we are at the end of our tether.

"A senior manager came out and spoke to us just before 12, asking us to get back to work and was met with a resounding 'no'."

The worker, who opted to remain anonymous said he felt EDF had been 'bending the Civil Engineering Section Agreement (CESA) to its advantage' and that this was the 'final straw'.

A spokesman for EDF said: “The majority of the Hinkley Point C workforce are working as normal today. A smaller number of workers are disputing payments for bad weather and they are being encouraged to return to work.

"Employees who were unable to work at the site during recent bad weather will be paid in line with agreements signed with the trade unions."

EDF say the safety of its workforce is paramount and a decision was made to close the site on Thursday ahead of the bad weather. Work was carried out over the weekend to ensure the site was available for a safe return to work today.

"We are proud of the ‘best in class’ pay and conditions for the Hinkley Point C workforce. We have created great facilities, offer career development and have done this in a way that is affordable for the project," the EDF spokesman said.

"We share a commitment with the trade unions and our contractors to provide the best standards in health, safety and welfare, and the highest standards of quality and productivity, as we work together to deliver this vital project for the UK.”

Unite the Union said it was completely unacceptable for Kier/Bam to decide not to pay its workforce while those workers remained available for work during last week's extreme weather and across the weekend.

Peter Hughes, South West Regional Secretary for Unite said: "The current problems at Hinkley were not organised or caused by Unite but the actions of their employers; however the union is currently in intensive negotiations to seek a resolution to the issues with both Kier/Bam and the client EDF”.
"Unite understands that workers were told last Thursday during the working day to return to their lodgings. The union’s members were due to work the weekend and were available to work; although were instructed not to report for work due to the red weather warnings. On their return to site this week they were advised via text that they would not be paid Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the union continues to seek an acceptable and negotiated settlement to these issues”. 
“We have already seen the government in Scotland call out companies who have adopted such tactics and we agree that employees should not be penalised for following safety advice. The union urges the employer to observe common sense in this issue and pay their employees”.