Construction manager Amec plays down disruption, but threatens to bring in replacement workforce.
M&E contractor Balfour Kilpatrick has dismissed 240 electricians at the site of the £154m Pfizer pharmaceutical plant in Sandwich, Kent, after they went on strike over safety concerns.

Bob Johnson, account manager at construction manager Amec, said: “We are considering alternatives at the moment with regards replacements for the workforce. A decision will be made in the next few days.”

Johnson denied that the project was in danger of falling behind schedule because of the strike.

He said: “We expect to limit any hold-ups. The delay can be absorbed. We are currently rearranging and re-sequencing the work. Two days have so far been lost. However, more than 20% of the dismissed workers have reapplied for their jobs and the strikers are no longer outside the site.”

The striking workers had formed a number of pickets outside the site, delaying deliveries earlier in the week.

One of the strikers said they would increase pickets around the site if Amec brought in a new labour force, and that they would look to their union, the AEEU, to support them.

A spokeswoman for Balfour Kilpatrick said the dismissed workforce had alleged that there was inadequate safety lighting on the site, inadequate fire alarm systems, no proper drying facilities and no wet-weather equipment.

However, she said the Pfizer electrical contract was operated to the highest safety standards.

She did not believe that the industrial action was related to any safety matter, and added that the “electricians were dismissed for taking unofficial action”. She added: “We have asked people to reapply for their jobs by the end of the week.”

The AEEU sent a letter on 6 April to the strikers saying that the action was unofficial and urging the workers to return to work.

An AEEU official said: “This is a totally unofficial strike. We are trying to do everything we can to resolve the situation.”

A spokesperson for Pfizer said: “We regret the disruptions. However, we regard this as a trade dispute. We are happy with the way the project is being managed at the moment.”