[U]nite members at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant are gearing up to take industrial action over a 1.5 per cent pay offer that has been imposed by management.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 5 October) that it will be informing Sellafield Ltd – a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) company – in the near future of the dates for industrial action.
This follows an industrial action ballot of its craft members which saw 90 per cent vote for strikes.
Unite has more than 1,100 members, such as key electrical staff, who will strike and this will ratchet up pressure on the management as the GMB union has already started to take industrial action.
The dispute centres on the company’s unilateral decision to impose a 1.5 per cent pay award from last month, backdated to 1 April.
Unite regional officer Graham Williams said: “This impending strike action follows on from Sellafield Ltd imposing on our members a pay rise well below the retail price index (RPI) rate of inflation which is presently running at 3.9 per cent.
“This means the workforce will actually see another effective pay cut after last year’s insulting 0.25 per cent offer.
“To date, the Sellafield workforce has delivered over £230 million savings in the last two years and is expected to make a further £300 million in savings this year.
“The bosses’ claim that ‘no strings are attached’ is a bit rich when Sellafield Ltd has already introduced far inferior terms and conditions for all new starters. They have also introduced a new pension scheme with inferior benefits in retirement.
“For example, a one per cent increase in pay for our members this year would equate to £463,300 and Sellafield Ltd believes this is unaffordable even though by the end of this financial year our workforce will have delivered over half a billion pounds worth of savings for the UK taxpayer.
“Much of the saving is being delivered by the frontline workforce.
“The management now needs to come to the table and negotiate in a constructive manner, otherwise industrial action by the Sellafield unions will ratchet up further and bring the site’s operations to a halt.”
The Unite strike committee has formulated a timetable for strike action and the management will be told about the dates of the first walkout within the legal timeframe.
Graham Williams added: “We see the shadowy hand of ministers guiding the management to impose this brutal pay policy.
“Our members are highly skilled and trained professionals who are working in an extremely hazardous, arduous and security-vetted environment.
“They are carrying out important work in the national interest and it is imperative that the wage rates are maintained at a commensurate level to reflect their contribution to Sellafield’s continued success.”
A spokesman for Sellafield Ltd said: “We believe that a no-strings-attached 1.5% pay increase is fair and reasonable, based on company affordability. The union which represents the largest section of our workforce (more than 5,000), has accepted the same offer which GMB and Unite are taking action over.
“Our focus is always on the safety and security of the site. We will put plans in place to ensure that is maintained throughout any strike action.”