Quarry blasted

The Oban Times - - Front Page - MARK ENTWISTLE men­twistle@oban­times.co.uk

THE GMB trade union has blasted the new oper­a­tor of Glen­sanda quarry for ‘stick­ing two fin­gers up’ at em­ploy­ment reg­u­la­tions.

THREE-QUAR­TERS of the work­force at the Glen­sanda quarry, near Oban, have now for­mally lodged griev­ances with new oper­a­tor Oban Earth Works over the threat of re­dun­dancy and changes to their terms and con­di­tions.

Last week new as­sur­ances by the com­pany that it was ‘un­likely’ there will be any com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies at what is Europe’s big­gest gran­ite quarry were dis­missed by union of­fi­cials.

GMB Scot­land was re­spond­ing after Oban Earth Works ac­cused the union of ‘ill-ad­vis­ing’ work­ers to raise griev­ances.

GMB Scot­land had al­ready slammed the firm for what it claimed was the bla­tant dis­re­gard of em­ployee pro­tec­tions en­shrined un­der TUPE regu- la­tions – rules that gov­ern the trans­fer of staff be­tween busi­nesses – by plan­ning to axe 25 em­ploy­ees, equiv­a­lent to more than half the work­force.

Oban Earth Works, a new Span­ish com­pany, was re­cently awarded the pri­mary load-and­haul con­tract at Glen­sanda by Ag­gre­gate In­dus­tries, which op­er­ates the quarry site.

The new com­pany is due to take over on Au­gust 1 and last month, in an anony­mous let­ter, mem­bers of the wor­ried work­force said they had been in­formed there would be 25 job losses.

GMB Scot­land has ac­cused Oban Earth Works of ‘stick­ing two fin­gers up’ at em­ploy­ment reg­u­la­tions and the hard-work­ing for­mer Har­g­reaves em­ploy­ees.

And union lead­ers have now threat­ened lit­i­ga­tion against the in­com­ing Span­ish com­pany to force it to re­spect the TUPE reg­u­la­tions.

In a state­ment is­sued last Thurs­day on be­half of Oban Earth Works, di­rec­tor Jon Si­marro said the com­pany was a con­sid­er­ate fam­ily em­ployer which was con­scious of the im­pact job losses would have on the Oban com­mu­nity.

‘We are keen to re­duce these are far as pos­si­ble and em­ploy as many lo­cal peo­ple as we can. We are ex­cited about the fiveyear con­tract on Glen­sanda and re­alise we can’t do that with­out ex­pe­ri­enced, mo­ti­vated staff work­ing with us to make this con­tract a suc­cess,’ he said.

The state­ment went on to al­lege that the union had in­cor­rect fig­ures, claim­ing: ‘It is likely 23 or more mem­bers of staff will re­main from 38.

‘There is a ques­tion over the num­ber of trans­fer­ing staff and we are work­ing with Har­g­reaves to con­firm this.

‘It is un­likely that there will be any com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies and we are work­ing hard to re-de­ploy any af­fected em­ploy­ees to va­can­cies at Glen­sanda or any other op­por­tu­ni­ties near Oban and Scot­land-wide.’

‘The GMB has ill-ad­vised its mem­bers on the in­tri­ca­cies of TUPE to the ex­tent they have en­cour­aged them to raise griev­ances which have no case in law. Har­g­reaves, their ex­ist­ing em­ployer, has thus said it will deal with the griev­ances,’ added Oban Earth Works.

Speak­ing to The Oban Times after read­ing through the state­ment, GMB Scot­land or­gan­iser Gary Cook was dis­mis­sive of the com­pany’s lat­est com­ments over the num­ber of re­dun­dan­cies.

And on the ac­cu­sa­tions of ill-ad­vis­ing union mem­bers, Mr Cook said: ‘Why would we not en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to raise griev­ances? It is the only way em­ploy­ees can chal­lenge things.

‘And claim­ing these changes can all be made for an ETO [eco­nomic, tech­nol­ogy or or­gan­i­sa­tional] rea­son un­der the TUPE leg­is­la­tion is wrong.

‘Per­haps you could change the logo on over­alls or the date on which peo­ple are paid but it doesn’t mean you can slash the work­force in half.’

And Mr Cook con­firmed that 37 union mem­bers em­ployed at Glen­sanda have now lodged griev­ances with the com­pany over pos­si­ble re­dunan­cies and what he called the ‘tear­ing up’ of work­ers’ terms and con­di­tions.

‘That’s vir­tu­ally three-quar­ters of the work­force which has lodged griev­ances and I will be writ­ing to the com­pany seek­ing union recog­ni­tion for our mem- bers as a col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing unit,’ he said.

High­land Coun­cil lead­ers are also to seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the quarry oper­a­tor over the jobs threat. Coun­cil leader Mar­garet David­son said that, along with Lochaber area leader Coun­cil­lor An­drew Bax­ter, she would be seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion from Ag­gre­gate In­dus­tries about what the im­pact will be on jobs.

‘Both Coun­cil­lor Bax­ter and I are con­cerned at news re­ports claim­ing that up to half of longterm jobs could be lost at the quarry and we will be seek­ing fur­ther in­for­ma­tion and re­as­sur­ance on what TUPE ar­range­ments will be in place. These are vi­tally im­por­tant jobs in a frag­ile ru­ral econ­omy,’ she said.

‘We also wish to dis­cuss with the GMB union what their con­cerns are for their mem­bers.’

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