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  1. ITV Report

Sellafield workers prepare for industrial action ballot

Members can expect ballot papers to be sent to their homes later this month. Photo: PA

Unite the Union members at Sellafield are set to hold an industrial action ballot.

This follows a ‘completely unacceptable’ 1.5% pay offer put in place by management from next month, September 2017.

Unite Sellafield shop stewards decided to go ahead with the ballot of the union’s 2,000 members in a meeting on Friday, 4 August 2017.

The RPI inflation rate is currently 3.5%. Last year Sellafield workers received 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.

Unite the Union's Regional Officer made this statement:

Last year’s pay award was 1%, but members agreed to take only 0.25% in order to keep existing apprentices on an agreed rate.

Low pay awards have been the order of the day for some time at Sellafield with the well-founded suspicion that this award dovetails with the government’s harsh pay restraint policies.

Once cherished free collective bargaining is now a myth in the decommissioning industry – and this paltry pay offer is completely unacceptable.

There has been a sustained erosion of pay, and terms and conditions in recent years including a proposed new pensions’ package with reduced benefits and new starters employed on inferior conditions.

The current regrading exercise would reduce craft pay by a minimum of £5,000 a year.

When the ‘benchmarking’ exercise started, the management compared very skilled workers dealing with the maintenance of the nuclear plant with those employed in ‘fried chicken’ outlets and charity shop workers.

These ridiculous comparisons have now been dropped, but it demonstrated the contemptuous way that the bosses regard its highly trained and safety conscious workforce.

The management now needs to come to the table and negotiate in a constructive manner, otherwise possible future industrial action could bring Sellafield to a halt.”

– Graham Williams, Regional Officer, Unite the Union

A spokesperson further commented:

We've offered our workforce an unconditional 1.5% increase this year - which is an increase to our wage bill of over £12million year on year.

After a ballot of their members, this has been accepted by one union, which has collective bargaining rights for over half the workforce, and rejected by two others who, between them, have collective bargaining rights for the remainder.

Like all publicly funded organisations, we have to control costs and ensure we are delivering value for money for the taxpayer, so we're implementing a pay award which we feel is fair, reasonable and, most importantly, affordable."

– Spokesperson

Members can expect ballot papers to be sent to their homes later this month.