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Strike at Dounreay ‘inevitable’ as workers from Unite, GMB and Prospect unions vote overwhelmingly for action

By Gordon Calder

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Workers from all three unions at Dounreay are set to go on strike after members at the site voted for industrial action over an ongoing pay dispute.

Members of Unite, GMB and Prospect unions voted to take action in a ballot which resulted in a huge majority in favour of going on strike – 85.5 per cent, 84.9 per cent and 72.8 per cent respectively.

Workers at Dounreay have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over pay.
Workers at Dounreay have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over pay.

The figures for taking action short of a strike were higher at 92.7 per cent (GMB), 89.8 per cent (Unite) and 87.4 per cent (Prospect).

The unions rejected a 4.5 per cent offer backdated to April 2023.

Unite said strike action will be "inevitable" in the coming weeks while GMB organiser in the Highlands, Lesley-Anne MacAskill, said: "For more than a year, our members have heard plenty of warm words and excuses but excuses do not pay their bills."

On Friday, Unite confirmed that its 460-strong membership employed by Nuclear Restoration Services Limited (NRS) based at Dounreay backed strike action by 85.5 per cent on a turnout of 82.3 per cent. The union said NRS has "a final opportunity" to resolve the dispute by making a revised pay offer to the workforce.

The company has recently changed its trading name from Magnox Limited.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "The Dounreay workforce has overwhelmingly backed industrial action because NRS has repeatedly failed to make them a fair pay offer. At the same time, the company has found the time to feather the nests of its directors.

"Unless NRS quickly gets back round the negotiating table to make our members an offer they deserve, then industrial action will be inevitable. Unite will fully support our members at Dounreay in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions."

Marc Jackson, Unite's industrial officer, said: "NRS has basically strung our membership along since January 2023 and they have simply had enough of the company’s games. There is a final opportunity to make our members a serious offer or any industrial action will lie at the doors of the directors who have so richly remunerated themselves while ignoring the workforce."

A pay offer of 4.5 per cent was previously rejected. Picture DGS
A pay offer of 4.5 per cent was previously rejected. Picture DGS

The pay offer was previously rejected by 95 per cent of members in a consultative pay ballot. The union said the offer amounted to a substantial real-terms pay cut as the rate of inflation was 11.4 per cent at the time.

Unite’s NRS membership includes craft technicians, general operators, chemical and electrical engineers, and maintenance fitters and safety advisors.

The GMB union has 450 members at Dounreay, which is being decommissioned. The site employs about 1200 people.

It was claimed that the remuneration package of the highest-paid NRS director went up from £331,000 to £651,000 in March 2023 while the company paid dividends of £2.1 million in the same period.

An NRS spokesperson at Dounreay said: "We are disappointed by the result and remain committed to working with the unions to find a resolution that is fair and affordable.

"While we hope industrial action can be avoided, we will now implement contingency plans to ensure minimum staffing levels are in place to maintain safety, security and environmental protection during any period of disruption."

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