FORMER staff at the failed SSI steelworks have new jobs after joining a £250m energy development.

Sita Sembcorp UK (SSUK) says 14 people from the Teesside works are now part of its waste-to-energy plant, at Wilton, near Redcar.

Bosses have now filled 36 of the 50 full-time vacancies they need to run the factory, which is due to open next year and convert more than 400,000 tonnes of household waste from Merseyside into electricity and steam.

Three ex-SSI workers have already started, with four due to join at the start of November.

The remaining seven former steelworks staff will begin later next month.

Jobs include shift manager roles, as well as maintenance and technician posts.

The recruitment drive comes as SSUK calls on unions to put up or shut up on claims foreign construction workers are being underpaid to build its plant, saying they are damaging the Wilton complex’s reputation and jeopardising jobs.

Unions, including Unite, GMB and Ucatt, have long alleged undercutting at the plant, with hundreds of people regularly protesting at the Wilton complex over pay, poor treatment of migrant staff and accusations that health and safety has been ignored.

They have also called for an independent wage audit, which SSUK says isn’t justifiable, and the company also says unions have turned down its offer for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to carry out its own review.

Ian Sexton, SSUK chairman, said enough is enough.

He said: “The unions’ request for access to personal information isn’t justified.

“If they have any evidence of any workers paid less than the UK guaranteed national rates of pay, they should produce it rather than repeating unsubstantiated allegations.

“This is not reasonable behaviour; it is damaging the reputation of the Wilton International site, and potentially affecting future investments that could secure more jobs for Teesside.

“We have always been very clear we will investigate any allegation sub-contractors are paying their staff less than national agreements.

"All workers on the site are being paid at least the Construction Industry Joint Council or National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry UK national guaranteed rates of pay.

"This is well above the national minimum wage and the national living wage.

“Over the past few months, we have investigated numerous allegations and found no evidence of any undercutting or other questionable employment practices relating to any staff employed by sub-contractors on this site."

CNIM Clugston Wilton, which is overseeing the factory build, did previously rip up two firms’ contracts after they failed to give evidence into the investigation, but it has always reiterated firms are offering salaries above national agreements.

Unions, however, are adamant that isn’t the case and a handful of people protested again today (Friday, October 9) at Sita’s base at Haverton Hill, near Billingham.

Earlier this week, the Teesside Construction Committee, which represents Unite and GMB, called a meeting to assess their next move in the wrangle.

Steve Cason, Unite regional officer, said: “SSUK’s refusal is a smokescreen to cover up its activities.

“Such audits are carried out on all jobs on sites covered by the national agreement without any problem.

“We believe a professional forensic audit would torpedo the company’s claim there is no systematic under-payment of foreign workers.”