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Ukrainians voice support for GMB Scotland strikers at munitions depot

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Ukrainian workers have urged UK defence chiefs to end a strike at a Scottish munitions depot sending arms to the frontline.

Trade union leaders in Kyiv hailed the “life-saving work” done at the Defence Equipment & Support (DES) complex in Ayrshire and backed GMB Scotland members taking industrial action in a dispute over bonus payments.

The union has confirmed another two days of strike action will take place next month at the depot helping assemble and dispatch missiles to Ukraine as part of Britain’s support.

In a letter to GMB Scotland, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) urged DES, which is part of the Ministry of Defence, to settle the dispute, treat workers fairly and protect the supply of arms to the frontline.

Mykhailo Volynets, KVPU chairman, thanked GMB Scotland staff at the depot in Beith, North Ayrshire, and said their work was crucial in the fight against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion force.

“The ongoing hostilities and daily missile attacks on Ukraine mean timely and uninterrupted supply of defence equipment is extremely important and plays a crucial role in saving lives and bringing peace to Ukraine.

“The supplies you ensure are a lifesaver for civilians in cities under constant attack by the Russian forces, as well as for the brave Ukranian military on the frontline.

“We sincerely appreciate your commitment to supporting Ukrainian workers during the hard times and stand in solidarity with the GMB members in their struggle.

“We urge the employer to negotiate with the GMB to resolve the problem as soon as possible.”

DES delivers equipment and support services to the UK armed forces but staff are divided between craft workers, who assemble the weapons, and non-craft colleagues who move the arms around the site and load them for shipment.

Extra payments are made to managers and craft workers to help keep stop them from leaving but the retention bonuses are not paid to non-craft colleagues, who have already staged two days of industrial action.

GMB Scotland says the pay gap between craft and non-craft workers has tripled to £18,000 in recent years and now more than 50 workers will strike on another two days on August 4th and 7th  after 93% backed industrial action to secure the same bonus payments as colleagues.

Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary, was on the picket line earlier this week when he urged the management to resolve the dispute.

He said: “Our members who work for the Ministry of Defence are crucial in keeping the nation safe.

“They play an important role in suppling munitions to our military and  are integral to the supply of munitions to Ukraine but have been treated with utter contempt.

“They are striking over pay and condition and what I’m hearing is that management in a blind panic to get stuff off the site are compromising safety when what they should be doing is getting around the negotiating table and sorting out this dispute.”

The Ayrshire depot supplies Storm Shadow and Brimstone missiles to Ukraine and, the GMB warns, the strike, the first in the history of the DES, will disrupt supplies and transit.

GMB Scotland organisers Chris Kennedy said the work of non-craft staff is important as their colleagues and must be fairly rewarded and recognised.

He said: “It is needless and regrettable that a two-tier system has been allowed to develop with some workers being given bonuses unavailable to colleagues.

"This is the first strike at DES and management must urgently negotiate a settlement that treats our members with fairness and respect.”


Contact: GMB Scotland Communications: