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Unite, GMB and Prospect unions ‘open to further discussions’ as Dounreay strike looms

By Gordon Calder

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The Dounreay site. Picture: NDA
The Dounreay site. Picture: NDA

Unions at Dounreay “remain open to negotiating with management” over an improved pay deal but are preparing for a strike if no increased offer is made.

An Industrial Action Committee has been formed and will take “all necessary preparatory steps in the meantime”.

Kim Thain, the vice-chair of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee at Dounreay and the deputy GMB lead and safety rep, said: "We have set up an Industrial Action Committee, which will consider the practical aspects around any industrial action that may be taken, including ensuring appropriate co-ordination between unions.

“The unions are committed to maintaining the safety and security of the site at all times, and we will not ask our members to undertake any action which may jeopardise that.”

She added: “Notice will be served on the company in line with legal time frames. We remain open to negotiating with management should an improved offer be tabled, but the Industrial Action Committee will continue with all necessary preparatory steps in the meantime.”

Denny Macdonald, the full-time safety rep at the site, said the decommissioning work at Dounreay would be “severely affected” by a strike but added: “The trade union safety reps will continue to work with management to ensure safety on site and the external environment is not compromised in any way.”

A Dounreay worker, who did not want to be named, said the strike ballot was a resounding mandate to take industrial action “over management's inability to negotiate a settlement.”

“They were prompted several times verbally and in writing of a possible way forward but remained unwilling to seek a solution,” the person said. “Management promises of possible future changes that may benefit employees are a non-starter, they just do not realise the damage they have done to the confidence and morale of the workforce.

“If there is not an improved offer industrial action will be taken," added the worker, who suggested it may be time to decommission “the entire senior management at the site”.

A 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.”

As reported in Wednesday's Caithness Courier, members of Unite, the GMB and Prospect 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.

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.”

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