Workers at Co-Steel in Sheerness, Kent, have denied claims by the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation union that they were pressured into signing contracts aimed at getting round the 48-hour week provisions in the Working Time Directive.
‘There is an opt-out clause, but the contract also stipulates a working week of no more than 46 hours,’ said Phil Healey, a Co-Steel worker. At a management-led press day at the mill, workers in attendance supported management claims that the average overtime at the mill was just 1.6 hours a week per worker.
‘We don’t need a union. I’ve put in 20 hours overtime this year so far,’ said another worker.
The ISTC, which claims 70% membership at the mill, said workers often put in up to 70 hours a week. Co-Steel’s personnel director, Dr Hugh Billot, said: ‘Some people do work a 70-hour week but they have time off in compensation. We have no intention of breaking any law.’
ISTC official Kevin Pass, who was not present at the meeting, said that most of the overtime was in the meltshop. ‘Tight manning makes the process most hazardous,’ he claimed.
Co-Steel had a British Safety Council award withheld in 1996, after workers complained. About 30 employees claimed that managers had encouraged them to use holiday to cover days off sick following accidents.