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Dounreay bosses accused as workers strike at nuclear site

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Bosses at Dounreay have driven workers to strike after hiding behind civil service pay rules, according to GMB Scotland.

Workers at the nuclear complex are on strike today after overwhelmingly rejecting a revised pay offer and backing industrial action.

GMB Scotland says a ballot of members, working in a range of roles at the Caithness site, revealed 89% rejected the offer on a turnout of 91%. The union's members on the site had already backed industrial action

The first one-day walkout today will be followed by two weeks of action short of strike, including a work to rule and overtime ban, with another walkout planned on 29 May.

Lesley-Anne MacAskill, GMB Scotland organiser in the Highlands, said the revised pay offer to workers was no real improvement on previous proposals and industrial action seems inevitable.

She said the company has used the Civil Service Pay Remit – pay guidelines for arms-length public companies - as an excuse to delay seriously engaging on workers’ pay.

MacAskill said: “This process has taken far too long and our members have heard too many excuses.

“If as management insist their hands are tied then they must be freed to offer a fair pay offer to staff crucial to the work undergoing at Dounreay.”

MacAskill has now written to Andrew Bowie MP, Minister for Nuclear and Renewables, urging him to remove Nuclear Restoration Services from a civil service pay framework.

She said: “The company could have, at any point, asked for an exemption from these rules but, despite being asked repeatedly, refused to do so.

“It has become a convenient excuse for doing nothing and only now more than a year on, and days from strike action, they have asked for an exemption.”

Staff unions have been in pay talks with Nuclear Restoration Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, since 2023 with no agreement.

In her letter, MacAskill tells the minister: “Our members have been left to endure a cost-of-living crisis for well over a year without the support of a deserved and overdue pay rise.

“This strike would have been entirely avoidable if you, as an employer, had removed Dounreay from the Civil Service Pay Remit.” 

Around 450 workers at Dounreay were balloted last month following a dispute over a 4.5% pay offer backdated to April 2023.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser, said the pay offer is unacceptable as it covers a 12-month period when inflation was higher than 11%, meaning it amounts to a real-terms cut.

He said: “Given the economic situation, our members have not been offered a pay rise at all but a real-terms pay cut.

“Managers insist they are bound by civil service rules but apparently can pick and choose which rules to follow. They seem far more relaxed when it comes to their own pay, for example.”