[M]embers of GMB, the union for nuclear workers, are today taking the first of two planned 12.5 hour strikes this week over a heated dispute over pay and conditions at Sellafield.
Firefighters are striking today between 6.00am and 6.30pm, and on Thursday (October 19 between) 6.00amand 6.30pm.
The action comes after Sellafield management failed to keep promises made in July to settle the dispute.
Firefighters had been 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.
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.
Chris Jukes, GMB Senior Organiser, said: “Management have broken their promises to the firefighters – and have failed to make a fair offer that would put an end to this dispute
“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 master and servant culture at Sellafield – senior management on top bonuses costing nearly £20 million per year. This contrasts with 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 more 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: “The safety and security of the Sellafield site, our workforce and the local community are our priorities during this industrial action.
“In an unprecedented step, the GMB has decided not to provide safety cover during this strike
“As a result, we’ve made arrangements for a private sector provider to supply this.
“The company’s firefighters have extensive experience and have undergone specific training ahead of working at Sellafield.
“We are aware that the local road network is already under pressure and we’ve taken every step possible to avoid adding to the disruption.
“This includes opening every available gate to the site and reminding employees they can work flexibly where possible.”