Workers at Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire to vote on strike action
Staff maintaining the UK’s nuclear weapons are to vote on strike action, a trade union has said.
Prospect said it will ballot its members working at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) amid an ongoing dispute with the company over pay.
AWE, headquartered in Aldermaston, Berkshire, supports and maintains Trident, the UK’s nuclear programme which is based at HMNB Clyde in Faslane, Argyll and Bute.
Prospect said the atomic weapons company recently became “an arms-length body of the MOD” with the associated freedoms on pay awards, but has offered an increase of 5%, which members have formally rejected.
An additional lump sum payment averaging £780 has also been offered.
The union said the combined offer is about a 7% increase in the context of the retail price index reaching 11.8% at the pay review date of June, which members said does not address a real-terms reduction in pay.
Prospect said it has warned repeatedly that unless pay problems are addressed “recruitment and retention issues affecting AWE will continue”.
The ballot opens on October 24 and will run for two weeks.
The Unite union will also be balloting about the same issue.
Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: “Several years of deteriorating workforce engagement and stagnating pay against inflation, has left workers at AWE with no option but to move towards industrial action.
“Safely maintaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent is a complex and highly stressful operation that requires an extremely high level of dedication and training at all levels.
“It should attract a commensurate level of pay and respect, for these staff who keep the country safe. Staff are struggling with the basic costs of living which is unacceptable in the context of this employer and its funding.
“This is not a workforce that can bear a high level of churn while safely functioning – the jobs simply require too high a degree of training.
“If the MOD and AWE don’t think again and make a pay offer that reflects the rocketing cost of living, there is a real risk that AWE will struggle to recruit and retain the skills that it needs.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters that any potential industrial action remained “hypothetical” but insisted that the nuclear deterrent would not be affected.
A spokesman for AWE said: “AWE continues to engage with its trade unions in working towards reaching a satisfactory resolution for all parties.”