Power station workers to walk out after rejecting ‘real terms pay cut’

More than 500 Highland power station workers are to walk out this week after “overwhelmingly” rejecting a pay offer that their union has said represents a “significant real terms pay cut”.

Unite the Union said workers at Dounreay power station in Thurso voted to reject a revised pay offer, which proposed a one-off £500 payment on top of a 4.5% wage increase.

Unite says the offer from employer Nuclear Restoration Services (NRS) represents a real terms pay cut with inflation and RPI factored in.

The union announced the workers will strike on Wednesday with an overtime ban to come into place the next day.

They have also planned another strike date on May 29 and are preparing to add more if the NRS does not act.

It comes after two previous strike dates on May 1-2 were cancelled while unions and workers considered the new pay offer.

However, with the offer rejected, the strikes are now back on the cards.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s growing membership at Dounreay power station have overwhelmingly rejected this revised pay offer because it still represents a significant real terms pay cut.

“Unite will continue to back our members at Dounreay power station all the way in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions”.

Staff who are striking include craft technicians, general operators, chemical and electrical engineers, maintenance fitters and safety advisers.

Marc Jackson, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite has repeatedly told NRS that pay offers which amount to a significant pay cut just isn’t going to be tolerated.

“We have a growing membership at Dounreay, which is down to the hard work of our shop stewards and NRS need to realise, if they don’t already, that we are heading for prolonged industrial action.

“Unite is actively looking at further days of action because NRS seem incapable of resolving this dispute through negotiation.

“The company should be under no illusions as to the determination of our members to get the pay rise they deserve”.

Unite says the the remuneration package of the highest paid NRS director went up from £331,000 to £651,000 at March 2023, and the company paid dividends of £2.1 million in the same period.

Meanwhile, the GMB union, which also has members working at the plant, has accused NRS of hiding behind civil service pay rules.

Organiser Lesley-Anne MacAskill said the civil service pay remit, which is a set of pay guidelines, has been used as an excuse to delay engaging with workers on pay.

She 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”.

Ms MacAskill has written to Andrew Bowie MP, minister for Nuclear and Renewables, urging him to remove NRS from a civil service pay framework.

In her letter, Ms MacAskill told 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”.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser, added: “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”.

The result of a ballot of GMB workers has not been announced but is expected to back strike action.

Workers represented by the Prospect union had previously considered strike action. However, a source said its members have voted to accept the latest pay offer, and will not be taking industrial action.

However, the source said the vote was fairly close and that there is still widespread concern with the offer, and other issues at Dounreay.

A spokesperson for NRS said: “We are disappointed by today’s announcement but remain committed to finding a resolution that is fair and affordable.

“Our contingency plans are being implemented to ensure the site remains safe, secure and compliant during any period of industrial action”.