Workers gear up for strike ballot

Workers at the Drax power station in north Yorkshire are gearing up to hold a ballot for strike action over 200 proposed redundancies, after overwhelmingly rejecting the latest offer from the company.

Drax announced in February that 50 years of coal-fired electricity generation at the North Yorkshire power station would end in March 2021, resulting in a loss of between 206 and 230 jobs.

At the time, Drax CEO Will Gardiner said: “Stopping using coal is the right decision for our business, our communities and the environment, but it will have an impact on some of our employees, which will be difficult for them and their families.”

The closing two coal-fired units at the six unit site, will be replaced by gas generation ones.

Now Britain’s largest union, Unite has said that the prospect of strike action later this summer is back on the cards after its members rejected the management’s latest offer in a consultative ballot.

If a strike went ahead, it would be the first time such action had taken place at the power station.

According to the union, the pay deal “hammered out last year” included an agreement that there would be no compulsory redundancies amongst the 600-strong workforce. However, they claim the company has now backtracked on that deal.

Something, Drax refutes. A Drax spokesperson said: “No pledge was made last year about compulsory redundancies. A joint statement agreed with Unite in February when we announced we would be stopping using coal in March 2021 bears testament to this.

“We continue to work closely with the Trades Unions to agree the enhanced redundancy terms linked to the 206 roles which will be made redundant when Drax stops using coal next year. The majority of GMB and Prospect union members who voted in a consultative ballot accepted the enhanced redundancy terms. Regrettably, a majority of Unite members who voted confirmed their support for industrial action in the consultative ballot.”

Unite regional officer Shane Sweeting said: “The members have rejected the revised offer by an 84 per cent majority and voted to proceed to an industrial action ballot.

“Our members even offered to take a pay and bonus freeze to improve redundancy terms and maintain jobs, but that has been rejected by the bosses.

“This must be seen against a background of a soaring share price based on the future development at Drax and huge profits of £415 million generated in the last financial year by the Selby site alone.

“However if the company adopted a scheme of natural wastage as workers left or retired, this would cost just £25 million a year for a limited period until the workforce is reduced.

“What we have here is a classic case of bad faith by the management as this highly profitable company pledged there would no compulsory redundancies when the pay deal was agreed in 2019.

“They backtracked on this promise, despite the Selby staff working flat-out during the pandemic and being classed as key workers. So we are now preparing for the strike ballot which will be held in July.”