Workers at Sellafield vote to strike

Workers belonging to the Unite union at the Sellafield nuclear waste reprocessing facility in Cumbria have voted to strike in a dispute over pay with facilities management outsourcer Mitie.

Mitie is responsible for integrated facilities management at Sellafield, which is run by Sellafield Ltd – a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) company. The service contract covers services such as cleaning, security, catering and waste management.

Currently, Unite workers at the site are paid £8.45 an hour, 24 pence above the National Living Wage, which increased to £8.21 for all those above the age of 25 in April 2019.

Workers at Sellafield vote to strikeMitie had made a pay offer to Unite’s workers at Sellafield, which was rejected. The union claims that since the rejection of the offer, Mitie has refused to allow Unite a seat at the negotiating table, which led the union to ballot its members on industrial action.

Unite’s 180 members at the plant employed by Mitie voted by 98 per cent in favour of strike action on a 70 per cent turnout. Unite previously balloted its members at Sellafield in late 2017 after a pay increase offer of 1.5 per cent was considered insufficient by the union due to it being considerably below the rate of inflation.

Unite regional officer Ryan Armstrong said: “Mitie is a multi-million pound company that is refusing to pay workers even the living wage, on a high security site.

“Our members are no longer going to accept poverty wages and if Mitie wants to prevent huge disruption at the complex, then it needs to make a fair pay offer.”

In response, Mitie claims that it cannot negotiate with Unite as the union GMB has sole recognition on its Soft Services contract – including cleaning, security and waste management – and as such Unite cannot be involved in pay discussions.

Mitie states that all of the 500 staff working on its Soft Services contract received a pay increase of three per cent on top of the nationwide increase in the National Living Wage in April 2019.

A spokesperson for Mitie said: "GMB is the only recognised union on our soft services contract at Sellafield. This continues to be a constructive relationship. Following recent successful pay negotiations with the GMB, we have increased hourly rates for employees at Sellafield. This offer was accepted following a ballot of GMB union members.

“We are arranging cover to ensure the normal continuation of services across the sites and minimize any potential disruption."

Unite has announced two 10-day periods of strike action, the first beginning at 00:01 on Friday 19 April, concluding at 06:00 on Monday 29 April 2019, followed by a further strike beginning at 00:01 on Saturday 4 May, concluding at 06:00 on Monday 13 May. This will be complimented by a discontinuous ban on overtime commencing at 00:01 on Friday 19 April 2019. 

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