1. ITV Report

Sellafield firefighters strike over pay and working conditions

Today's strike is the first of two 12.5 walkouts Photo: ITV Border

Sellafield firefighters are staging a walkout today in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

The 12.5 hour walkout by 63 GMB members got under way at 6am this morning and will continue until 6.30pm this evening.

Today's strike is the first of two 12.5 walkouts, with further industrial action scheduled for Thursday from 6am to 6.30pm.

Firefighters were due to strike on 24 July, but more time was given to management to put in place a promised resolution to the dispute by the end of September.

GMB reports a resolution was not put in place.

Crews at Sellafield work to keep more than 10,000 workers on site safe, along with the surrounding communities.

Chris Jukes is the Senior Organiser of GMB:

Management have broken their promises to the firefighters – and have failed to make a fair offer that would put an end to this dispute

GMB’s firefighters have remained professional throughout this process, which started in 2012 undertaking all the relevant training courses required, many done on their rest days.

Sellafield Limited has spun a message of greed with 2,500 senior personnel on Sellafield earning eye-watering bonuses which are in every sense of the word an obscenity compared to what firefighters were promised.

There is a well developed master and servant culture at Sellafield - senior management on top bonuses costing nearly £20 million per year.

This contrasts with a steadfast refusal to recognise the efforts and skills of the workers expected to be in the thick of keeping the 10,000 workers on the site and the much wider community safe in the most difficult of circumstances.

Feedback from GMB members is that they want to do the work necessary to make the Sellafield site safe if difficult things happen.

We live in very uncertain times and the firefighters’ priority is to protect the community and the public at large.

GMB Members have been receptive to Sellafield management when they have been looking at work in what is known as warm zones areas - in other words, firefighters entering areas where a catastrophic incident might take place.

However, despite the apparent progress and promises more two months ago, it appears senior management in Sellafield Limited have gone bent on their undertakings and returned to the incompetent communications and negotiating style that has become the way of some top brass at Sellafield in recent years.

GMB members feel insulted that management have taken this approach and even more incensed when management have expressed ‘disappointment’ with the response from GMB negotiators to the latest offer.

GMB members recognise, along with their families, that work on a Civil Nuclear Decommissioning Plant - with the accompanying risks from high levels of radioactive waste - means they should be appropriately rewarded.

The Company has sought to denigrate and bad mouth firefighters by inappropriate comparisons with workers outside the site."

– Chris Jukes, Senior Organiser, GMB

Sellafield management say they're focussed on ensuring the safety of the nuclear site during industrial action:

The safety and security of the Sellafield site, our workforce and the local community are our priorities during this industrial action.

In an unprecedented step, the GMB has decided not to provide safety cover during this strike

As a result, we’ve made arrangements for a private sector provider to supply this.

The company’s firefighters have extensive experience and have undergone specific training ahead of working at Sellafield.

We are aware that the local road network is already under pressure and we’ve taken every step possible to avoid adding to the disruption.

This includes opening every available gate to the site and reminding employees they can work flexibly where possible."

– Sellafield spokesperson