Unite casts doubt over wind turbine blade manufacture being essential

In: Windfarms
Workers have returned to Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy offshore wind turbine manufacturing facility at Alexandra Dock, Hull following a hiatus in production in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

With workers returning to the site, Unite the Union - a workers union operating in Britain and Ireland - has spoken out against Siemens Gamesa. The union represents 380 production staff, and is claims that members will, in effect, pay for the week’s pause in production.

Unite stated workers should not be made ‘to pick up the tab’ for the pause in production to introduce a coronavirus safety regime. Unite said that the management wanted the workforce either to take holiday; work the hours back in the future; or go unpaid for the week.

Unite is also questioning whether the production of the blades for wind turbines is essential at this time of national emergency and, if it is not, the workforce should be furloughed on full-pay until the pandemic passes.

Unite regional coordinating officer Simon Coop said: “At this time of national emergency we want to work constructively with management, but we are not prepared to see our members pick up the tab for the week’s pause in production.

“We are urging the management to rescind that edict about the week’s pause and pay our members in full.

“Our members returning to the site today are rightly anxious whether the new health & safety measures are adequate enough.

“We want to discuss with the company whether the production of blades is an ‘essential’ industry at this time. If it is not, we would want our members furloughed on full-pay.”

4C Offshore contacted Siemens Gamesa who issued the following statement: "Following the temporary suspension to production on March 24th, Siemens Gamesa has reviewed and introduced a raft of stringent measures at the site in response to the spread of Covid-19, which include thermal imaging checks for all entrants to the site, redesigning work processes or additional PPE, including masks and gloves, for tasks for which these are not usually required, among others.

"Our employees in Hull have not been financial impacted by this production pause, and are able to work their hours back over several months. In addition, we have offered additional flexibility in work arrangements, to support employees’ domestic circumstances.

"The raft of improvements to our safety protocols and processes is now implemented and will allow us to resume production from April 1st, in order to meet our commitments to customers and society without compromising the safety and wellbeing of our workers. That remains our number one priority and we will continue to keep all operations and protocols under review."

The 10 acre Siemens Gamesa Hull facility produced its first blade in December 2016. Blades are stored on the quayside in Hull, before being taken out in batches by offshore installation vessels to the offshore sites. Measures put in place in Hull follow the pausing of operations at the company's facilities in Spain (Fernando and Aoiz) and in India.

Siemen Gamesa Renewable Energy SGRE is one of the largest offshore wind turbine suppliers in the world and claims to have installed 95 GW turbines globally. It is the result of a merger between two of the world's largest offshore and onshore turbine manufacturers, Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica S.A. and Siemens Wind Power A/S , which was completed in 2017.

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