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'Immense relief' as windfarm giant promise to ignore foreign-worker loophole

PUBLISHED: 15:09 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:54 10 May 2019

Orsted’s Race Bank Offshore Wind Farm, located off the north Norfolk coast. Picture: Alasdair Smith/Courtesy of Orsted

Orsted's Race Bank Offshore Wind Farm, located off the north Norfolk coast. Picture: Alasdair Smith/Courtesy of Orsted

Alasdair Smith

Vattenfall has assured Norfolk's workforce that there is "zero chance" it will be making the most of a government loophole which would see foreign workers employed at less than minimum wage.

The government has recently extended a waiver which allows offshore wind construction contractors to bring in workers from outside the European Economic Area.

The decision has been blasted in other areas of the country which are home to wind farms, with maritime union RMT saying it was a "betrayal" of British workers.

One area which has been affected is Hull, with its newspaper reporting Polish workers are allegedly being paid £3.60 per hour by Norwegian company OSM.

However Vattenfall, which has submitted an application to build a windfarm off the north Norfolk coast, has promised not to follow suit.

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A spokesman for the firm said: "Vattenfall's employment policies follow conventions set out by the International Labour Organisation and, of course in our UK operations, in full compliance with UK employment and immigration laws. 
"We also work closely with our suppliers to ensure compliance with all relevant policies and regulations, including paying the UK national minimum wage. On that basis, Vattenfall would take any breach of these principles and law extremely seriously."

A similar statement was made by Orsted, which has proposed to build the Hornsea Project off the north Norfolk coast.

A spokesman for Orsted added: "We always ensure that our suppliers and contractors comply with international regulations and are discussing this matter further with them.

"Additionally, we are not aware of any industry requests for an extension to the waiver. Whilst we do not yet have an active project in the East of England, Ørsted is absolutely committed to investing in the regions where we operate and to helping local people access the many exciting roles in offshore wind."

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was "immensely relieved" by the news.

"I'm pleased that Vattenfall have made this commitment. In my view there's no place for companies paying poor wages and avoiding British regulations just because they're offshore," he said.

He added: "I disagree with the government in allowing this to happen and think we should close this loophole."

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