[G]MB, the union for nuclear workers, has announced two 12-and-a-half hour strikes by firefighters at Sellafield will go ahead later this month in a dispute over pay after Sellafield management failed to keep promises made in July to settle the dispute.
The strikes will take place on Tuesday October 17, between 6am and 6.30pm, and Thursday October 19 between 6am and 6.30pm.
Firefighters were due to strike on July 24 before the industrial action was averted by last ditch talks.
Further action was suspended to allow management time to implement a promised resolution which was to have been in place by the end of September at the latest.
Over the two month period since July, GMB and Sellafield management also discussed contingency safety provisions in the event of a serious incident taking place during the strike.
GMB members believe that the work managers said they needed to do on the promised resolution to the firefighters’ remuneration now looks to have been stalling tactics by senior management rather than serious negotiations.
Crews at Sellafield work in a fully–fledged firefighter role to keep the 10,000 plus workers on site safe, along with the surrounding communities.
They are ready to respond immediately to fires and other emergencies – including paramedic work – which is vital given the potentially hazardous nature of work on the Sellafield site.
In a separate dispute, GMB’s 3,000 members at Sellafield took part in a 24 hour strike last week after the company imposed a below inflation pay increase of 1.5%; RPI inflation is currently 3.9%.
Unite the Union’s 1,200 Sellafield members voted on Monday (2/10/17) to take strike action as part of the same dispute.
Chris Jukes, GMB Senior Organiser, said:
“Sellafield Limited management made what GMB believed was an offer in good faith a couple of months ago to resolve this dispute, which dates back years, by introducing a warm zone allowance by the end of September.
“Management have broken their promises with the latest offer at the end of last week.
“GMB’s firefighters have remained professional throughout this process which started in 2012 undertaking all the relevant training courses required, many done on their rest days.
“Sellafield Limited has spun a message of greed with 2,500 senior personnel on Sellafield earning eye-watering bonuses which are in every sense of the word an obscenity compared to what firefighters were promised.
“There is a well developed masters and servants culture at Sellafield- senior management on top bonuses costing nearly £20 million per year, against a steadfast refusal to recognise the efforts and skills of the workers expected to be in the thick of keeping the 10,000 workers on the site and the much wider community safe in the most difficult of circumstances.
“Feedback from GMB members is that they want to do the work necessary to make the Sellafield site safe if difficult things happen.
“We live in very uncertain times and the firefighters’ priority is to protect the community and the public at large.
“GMB Members have been receptive to Sellafield management when they have been looking at work in what is known as warm zones areas – in other words, firefighters entering areas where a catastrophic incident might take place.
“However, despite the apparent progress and promises two months ago, it appears senior management in Sellafield Limited have gone bent on their undertakings and returned to the incompetent communications and negotiating style that has become the way of some top brass at Sellafield in recent years.
“GMB members feel insulted that management have taken this approach and even more incensed when management have expressed ‘disappointment’ with the response from GMB negotiators to the latest offer.
“GMB members recognise, along with their families, that work on a Civil Nuclear Decommissioning Plant – with the accompanying risks from high levels of radioactive waste – means they should be appropriately rewarded.
“The Company has sought to denigrate and bad mouth firefighters by inappropriate comparisons with workers outside the site.”
A spokesman for Sellafield Ltd said: “We made an offer to the firefighters which included an additional allowance for carrying out extra work.
“We agreed to work with the GMB and the firefighters to assess the value of that allowance. We remain open to further discussions.
“Our focus is on putting in place arrangements to ensure the site remains safe during any industrial action.”