Cross-party MPs back striking Actavo workers at British Steel in 15% pay dispute

Photo: Unite
Ed Miliband and Holly Mumby-Croft are among those calling for a resolution as workers take up strike action in Scunthorpe

A cross-party group of MPs have written letters in support of scaffolders who are currently on strike over a pay dispute, backed by trade union Unite.

Five MPs have all written separately to Actavo, including former Labour leader Ed Miliband and two local Conservative MPs, with Labour MP Stephanie Peacock urging the company to “engage positively” with Unite “as a matter of urgency to bring an end to the dispute”.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Workers are currently on continuous strike at British Steel in Scunthorpe over a pay dispute with employer Actavo, with Unite calling for all parties to enter discussions
  • The dispute has been ongoing since October 2021, with workers claiming that they are being paid up to 15% less than the industry rate under the National Agreement Engineering and Construction Industry (NAECI) agreement 
  • More than 14,000 people have signed a petition backing the workers, while the issue has also been raised in the Dáil, the Irish parliament, as Actavo is a Dublin-based firm
  • Actavo has hit back describing coverage of the dispute as ‘inaccurate’ because the NAECI ‘does not apply’ although Unite has disputed this claim
  • The MPs who have written to Actavo on behalf of the striking workers are Ed Miliband of Doncaster North (Labour), Stephanie Peacock of Barnsley East (Labour), Yvette Cooper of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Labour), Andrew Percy of Brigg & Goole (Conservative) and Holly Mumby-Croft of Scunthorpe (Conservative).

What’s been said?

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Local MPs are putting pressure on Actavo bosses to end this dispute. It’s time Actavo listened. The scaffolders have begun continuous strike action and their union is 100 per cent committed to their cause. Support for their reasonable demand to be paid the rate for the job is also gaining political support. It’s time for British Steel and Actavo to end the intransigence and reach a deal with Unite.”

A British Steel spokesman said: “This matter involves employees of a supplier. We do not negotiate on behalf of a supplier’s employees in relation to pay disputes.”

A spokesperson for Actavo said: "There have been numerous inaccurate reports in the media and online against Actavo on this matter since industrial action began on the 4th of October 2021. The company has made every effort to engage with Unite on the matter and continues to engage in good faith with Unite and is keen to work on negotiations towards an agreement

“While Unite is stating that the current situation is “breaking” the NAECI (National Agreement Engineering and Construction Industry) agreement, the fact is NAECI does not apply.  We understand that Unite agreed the current rates on a localised collective bargaining basis. The hourly rate of circa £15 is, we believe, broadly on a par with the national average for scaffolding works in the steel-making sector.

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“Actavo has a positive record of employee relations across its businesses in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere. It places employee safety at the top of its priorities, which includes multi award-winning health and safety processes."

Unite regional officer Richard Bedford said: Of course the national agreement applies to the scaffolders. It’s why the workers have been on strike for a total of 14 weeks.

“We also know that Actavo pays NAECI rates to other workers. We have even had the ridiculous situation of Actavo sending employees who are being paid the NAECI rate to work alongside our members. It really is time for Actavo and British steel to stop messing around. It’s time to get around the negotiating table so the scaffolders can get back to work.”

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