Workers to strike at UK Power Networks serving London and South East

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Electricity pylons in east London Credit: PA

Workers at UK Power Networks (UKPN), the company that ensures the lights stay on in London, Kent and East Anglia will go on strike in March and April after rejecting a pay deal from their employer. A ballot of 1,300 members of the Unite trade union had come out against the offer, which the company said would increase their pay by 18% over two years. Unite disputed this figure, saying that workers have in the past been offered a Retail Price Index inflation-busting pay rise, and that this deal would see their real-term pay cut substantially. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “UKPN’s profiteering, which has seen it continue to rake in astronomical profits as millions of families dread the arrival of their next energy bill, is a prime example of why Britain’s economy is broken. “Our members at UKPN, like the rest of ordinary working families across the UK, are also struggling with rocketing energy bills. “Despite its astronomical profits, the company has decided to offer its workers a real terms pay cut. Unite will fight attacks on our members’ pay, terms or conditions. UK Power Networks can afford to put forward an acceptable offer and this is what needs to happen.” The business serves around 8.3 million customers across London, the East and South East. UKPN said Unison and Prospect, two of its other unions, had accepted the offer, and GMB, its final union, had not balloted members.

“We believe our record offer of a projected 18% pay rise and additional benefits is a fair and generous one,” UKPN said. “We are deeply disappointed that Unite members have voted in favour of strike action. The offer remains on the table and we hope Unite will follow Prospect and Unison in accepting it, which we believe is in the best interests of our employees.” The offer would have given staff a 7% pay rise effective from last April in addition to another rise based on inflation, which is expected to be 11.1%. UKPN said the risk that customers’ electricity supply would be disrupted was still low. “The company has robust contingency plans in place for all reasonable scenarios, including industrial action,” it said. It serves customers in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Greater London, Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent.

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