GERMAN contractor Hochtief has been accused of basing bid costs for a project in Scotland on the use of cheap Romanian workers

The T&G union claims to have uncovered evidence suggesting that a Hochtief bid for work on the Glendoe hydroelectric power project, where the company is one of two final bidders, was based on the use of cheap labour from eastern Europe. Fergus Ewing, MSP for the Inverness region, has now taken up the issue and has sent a letter to Hochtief.

A spokesperson for the client on the project, Scottish and Southern Energy, said it was aware that Ewing had contacted Hochtief. He said:

“We can confirm that Fergus Ewing sent a letter to Hochtief, and that the contractor is expected to reply within the next few days.”

A source at T&G said that the union believed Hochtief planned to fly Romanian workers to and from the region to avoid immigration and tax issues. He said that Hochtief’s projected labour costs would be significantly lower because of this.

Under immigration law, workers are permitted to remain in the UK for 90 days without facing tax. Once that period expires, companies must begin paying charges, but these would be evaded if a company were to fly its workers into and out of the country.

Scottish and Southern said it had been assured by Hochtief that this was not how it intended to source labour for the project, but could not confirm where the contractor planned to find staff.

We can confirm that MSP Fergus Ewing sent a letter to Hochtief about this

Scottish and Southern Energy spokesperson

The Scottish and Southern spokesperson said: “After speaking to Hochtief, we have received an assurance that no such arrangements are in place. No decision on where to source labour will be taken until a contract is signed.” Hochtief declined to comment on the allegations.

Bids on the proposed power station closed last week. The other bid for the project is from a joint venture between contractor Skanska and civil engineer Morgan-Est.

The underground project, which is close to the south-east corner of Loch Ness, will be the first large hydroelectric power scheme in Scotland for 40 years.

The scheme, which has been subjected to detailed environmental assessment, was developed in consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.