Hundreds of workers at EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant are being furloughed after the firm decided to cut the number of workers on site by more than half.
In an attempt to cut costs, the Telegraph reported that many of the site’s workers are being moved onto the government’s employee retention scheme, which guarantees them 80 per cent of their wages.
Although some of the 2,000 or so workers moved off the nuclear site in Somerset will continue to work in back office roles, the requirement to pay the majority will now shift to the government.
Those initially set to be moved onto the Treasury scheme are contractors working on the site, not EDF employees.
The French firm said: “Hinkley Point C has reduced the number of workers on its site to enable safe working. The project has not asked for any additional Government support and the majority of workers will remain in employment”.
It is understood that contractors are furloughing 500 or so employees, with the intention to bring them back onto payroll as soon as possible.
EDF has not issued a statement on whether it expects the coronavirus pandemic to impact the project’s timeline.
Hinkley Point C, which will power up to 6m homes, is slated to open in 2025. Previous estimates had said that the power plant would be open in 2017.
EDF said that while it was taking precautions to ensure the safety of its workers by reducing the number on site, it was crucial for the project to maintain some capability through the shutdowns enforced by the pandemic.
In a statement, the firm said: “The project will preserve the UK’s specialist nuclear supply chain and its skilled workers by focusing on critical work on nuclear parts of the project.
“Keeping this capability intact is essential for a project of critical national importance and an industry which plays a key role in helping the UK reach net zero”.
EDF’s decision to reduce its workforce came after the government came under pressure to suspend all non-essential construction work over safety concerns.
Politicians of all stripes, from London mayor Sadiq Khan to Tory ex-minister Iain Duncan Smith hit out against the government’s decision not to pause all such work for the duration of the crisis.