Sellafield workers vote in favour of strike over pay


Members of GMB, the union for nuclear workers working at Sellafield in Cumbria have voted for strike action in a dispute over pay.

Following the conclusion of a three-week ballot process at noon yesterday (Monday, September 4), 76% of ballot papers returned supported strike action.

The vote to strike comes after the union claims the company ignored repeated requests for further talks and instead imposed a below-inflation pay offer of just 1.5%. The Unite union is also due to ballot its 2,000 members at Sellafield.

Sellafield offered 1.5% in June which was rejected by 88% of GMB members on site during a consultative ballot. The union points to the RPI inflation rate, currently at 3.6%, to support its claim.

GMB said that last year, in order to stop Sellafield management from cutting the pay of apprentices, Sellafield workers accepted just 0.25% extra pay against annual RPI inflation for 2016 of 1.8%.

As part of Government-led changes to the pensions of nuclear workers, two thirds of Sellafield workers will also have to pay an extra 2% to 6% on their pensions contributions from next year.

Sellafield had previously offered a pay rise 1.5% in June 2017 which was rejected by 88% of GMB members on site during a consultative ballot. GMB had sought further talks with the company, which it says were declined.

GMB’s Sellafield strike Ccommittee will meet later this week to decide on the date for the first strike, which will be sometime this month.

In a separate dispute involving Sellafield’s firefighters,strike action was averted following last ditch talks in July to resolve a dispute which had been unresolved for years.

Chris Jukes, GMB senior organiser, said: “Since the days of the cold war, the deal for isolated local nuclear communities like Sellafield has been that in exchange for the risks associated with nuclear waste reprocessing – which most people don’t want on their doorsteps – they had stable job opportunities, on decent terms and conditions and with secure pensions when production ceased.

“Gnawing away continually at this social contract has consequences. GMB members at Sellafield have had enough with this unfair treatment that has seen their pay fail to keep pace with inflation over recent years. The decision to take industrial action is never, ever taken lightly but shows the level of real anger on the site.

“GMB members at Sellafield have had enough of the company imposing their pay upon them, it is no surprise they have voted by more than three to one to strike.

“In additionm the company have made veiled threats in communications to our members around bonus payments when those in senior roles already receive an additional large performance bonus in other words there is one rule for those in senior roles and one rule for industrial workers. The fact is that the pay offer of 1.5% is a pay cut.

“The way that Sellafield have handled this process has been yet another example of how not to manage and how not to do things. The decision to take industrial action is never, ever taken lightly but shows the level of real anger and betrayal felt by our members who want decent pay for the vital work they do, day in day out.”

“GMB members are also already looking at an increase of between 2 to 6% in their pension contributions and last year, Sellafield workers received just 0.25% extra in their pay packets. This year’s offer of 1.5% is way below inflation again and would mean that yet another real terms pay cut for our hardworking members after inflation has been taken into account.”

A Sellafield spokeswoman said: “We believe that a no-strings attached 1.5% pay increase is both fair and reasonable. We made that offer based on company affordability, and it was accepted by the Prospect Union which has collective bargaining rights for the largest group of our workforce.

“The GMB represents around 2,000 of our 10,500 strong workforce. Clearly, we are disappointed at the GMB’s ballot result, and will now start to finalise our arrangements to ensure that the site remains safe and secure during any subsequent action.”

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