finance

Babcock's Clyde nuclear naval base workers strike



Hundreds of workers at the Coulport and Faslane nuclear naval bases began taking part in industrial action on Friday.

Of the 1,000-strong Unite union membership, 95% voted in support of strike action, on a 65% turnout. The strike will be held in conjunction with a continuous call out ban and ban on all overtime.

The vote was in response to an escalating dispute over pay and bargaining rights with Babcock Marine.

The ‘industrial’ workforce, which covers roles such as electricians, mechanical fitters, plumbers and joiners, have already rejected a pay offer of 1.1% for 2020.

For 2021 and 2022, the offer was based on the consumer price index plus 0.5%.

Unite has repeatedly raised concerns over the future of the nuclear naval bases following the imminent outcome of the Ministry of Defence’s Future Maritime Support Programme (FMSP).

The union warned that splitting national security contracts into smaller work packages endangers the country’s military power and nuclear response capabilities.

It also criticised Babcock Marine management for refusing to engage with Unite on the future shape of the bases following the contract decision, which is expected to be decided upon in April 2021.

The contracts are anticipated to run until March 2026.

Strike action by Babcock staff is also currently occurring at RAF Leeming, in North Yorkshire. More than 50 Babcock workers, who provide operational and engineering services for aircraft at RAF Leeming, have been on strike since January over a £5,000 shift pay disparity.

Stephen Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “The strike action set to take place at the Clyde nuclear naval bases falls fully on the shoulders of Babcock Marine management – Unite representatives have for a number of weeks sought to resolve this dispute.

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“However, the company has taken the deliberate decision to escalate this dispute by refusing to meaningfully engage with us on pay and the future workplace relations at the bases.”

Deans pointe out that the outcome of the Ministry of Defence’s Future Maritime Support Programme – which is potentially worth up to £200m on the Clyde – is set to be announced soon.

“Instead of discussing with Unite how we can work together following this major decision, Babcock Marine has ignored us and ultimately the workforce.

“Babcock Marine can pull this situation back from the brink if they finally get back to negotiating with us, but if they do not, then strike action involving hundreds of workers will continue until management see sense.”

A statement from Babcock responded that it was “deeply disappointed” that some union members at the Clyde base had chosen to take action over a pay claim, “when we have been clear that we are keen to try to find a mutually acceptable resolution”.

The company said: “We increased our offer during talks with Unite at the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and believe this is a very fair pay deal that is higher than the rate of inflation.

“The dispute also includes a matter concerning trade union collective bargaining linked to an ongoing Ministry of Defence procurement process that Babcock has no ability to influence.”

It added: “We remain focused on delivering the safe, secure operations that our team at HMNB Clyde are renowned for and are keen to keep talking to all stakeholders in order to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible.”

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