Following a long-running battle with British Nuclear Fuels to bring shift pay rates for industrial workers in line with staff side rates, Sellafield’s GMB and Amicus unions have voted this afternoon to take strike action.
The Unions must now start the strike within the next 28 days and are required togive BNFL 7 days notice of their action. The strike, likely to involve around 2000 Sellafield workers and to be implemented within the next two weeks, will be in a form yet to be decided by the Unions. It will be the first strike at the site for 30 years and follows what the Unions see as foot-dragging by BNFL since 1999 when an agreement in principle was reached over equalised pay rates. The Unions then expected the new rates to be applied in 2004. This has subsequently been extended to 2009 by the company – to the anger of the Sellafield Unions, despite the extension’s acceptance by workers at other BNFL sites.
In ballot terms, a two-thirds majority vote is required for strike action.. This seems to have been easily achieved today by the GMB and Amicus Unions, with the latter achieving a 75% call for strike action from its 500-600 workers. Whilst the GMB vote is as yet unknown, it is understood that it is not supported by the GMB Union nationally.
The strike is likely to effect all major operations at Sellafield including the reprocessing and MOX plants. It comes at a bad time for the Company which, in the run-up to the ‘take-over’ of the Sellafield site and its operations in 2005 by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, is trying to impress Government Ministers and others that BNFL is running a ‘tight and happy ship’. Any operational delays will further infuriate its customers, particularly those from Overseas whose reprocessing contracts are already 3 years behind schedule.
BNFL has not yet commented publicly on what was seen as a predictable outcome to the ballot. The Unions have moved to allay fears about safety at Sellafield during the strike by confirming that staffing levels in the event of industrial action had already been agreed and would be adhered to.