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Health and safety concerns raised with Dounreay management

By Gordon Calder

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A number of staff have been signed off with stress at Dounreay, it has been claimed. Picture DGS
A number of staff have been signed off with stress at Dounreay, it has been claimed. Picture DGS

Some trade union and safety representatives have no confidence in the management at Dounreay and have raised health and safety concerns at the site.

A number of employees told the John O'Groat Journal, sister paper to the Northern Times, that they are also worried over how issues on the wellbeing of staff were being addressed.

"There are numerous cases of staff members off due to work-related stress – some as a result of bullying and harassment," said one worker. "Concerns have been raised but do not appear to be addressed.

"Dounreay has said that 'our workers are out greatest asset', but from the conversations I've had with people across site, this is not believed."

Another employee stated: "This has been an ongoing issue for years. It is hard to prove in many cases and has been dealt with in some instances. Safety reps have been involved in meetings on this topic along with the chairman of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee."

A separate member of staff said: "A lot of these issues have been raised for some time and we are getting frustrated they are not getting dealt with. There is always hope they will get resolved but management's track record is not great."

The Groat has been told that trade union and safety representatives have written letters expressing their lack of confidence in the current management and to highlight issues on health, safety and well-being of staff.

It is understood the concerns raised are about infrastructure, buildings with leaking roofs, pieces of concrete falling down, and issues with fire alarms and electrical systems.

In addition, it is said that a number of staff have been signed off work with stress, allegedly due to bullying in some cases, while morale at the site is very low, it is claimed.

It was also pointed out that a hardship payment of £1500 which has been paid to staff at other Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) sites has been "held back to make the latest pay offer of 4.5 per cent look better".

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Willie Swanson, of the GMB union at Dounreay, said: "We have processes in place to deal with any bullying and harassment and several avenues for individuals to report through. In the past where cases have been proven, action has been taken. It can be hard to prove but not impossible.

"All individuals are encouraged to come forward and report through the mechanisms in place – safety reps, line management, employee support and SafeCall – which allow the individual (or group) to come forward anonymously if needed.

"Over the last few years there has been some correspondence regarding the number of investigations taking place, and the feeling that reps' views were not being considered by management."

Mr Swanson added: "Like the rest of the public sector, Dounreay could be viewed as an underfunded site. We are decommissioning but that doesn’t mean site infrastructure can be left untouched – old buildings must be maintained and that costs money.

"The UK government and the NDA decide on funding and priorities."

Denny Macdonald, a full-time safety rep at the Dounreay site, said: "Our priority is to ensure Dounreay is a safe working environment for all staff.

"Recently we have needed to raise several issues relating to health, safety and the well-being of staff. We are currently in ongoing discussions with management how to address these concerns in a timely manner."

Other union representatives at the site were contacted this week for a comment on the claims, as was management.

Earlier this year, Dounreay was accused of treating lower paid staff unfairly and "doing nothing" about their concerns on pay, pensions and bonuses.

It was claimed the issues have been raised with unions but were being ignored by management.

However at the time, a spokeswoman at the site said all staff are valued as "they are our greatest asset".

"Without them we would not be able to continue our mission, to decommission the site," she added.

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