Construction workers on Cumbria power plant strike over contractors’ alleged refusal to have full-time shop steward


Around 1,200 construction workers at the Sellafield nuclear power plant in Cumbria have gone on strike today over contractors’ alleged refusal to have a full-time union shop steward on site.

Members of trade union Unite, working for 15 sub-contractors, went on strike between 5.30 and 8am this morning.

Picket lines were set up outside the entrances to Sellafield, including the main gate. It follows an ongoing work-to-rule and overtime ban which has been in place since last Friday.

Workers on the site are calling for the creation of a full-time shop steward on-site to improve industrial relations, and address increasing health and safety concerns and the site’s welfare facilities.

It comes after 98% of the 1,200 Unite members and workers employed at the site in April voted for industrial action, over a dispute regarding the company’s alleged refusal to allow a full-time union shop steward, and “a more proactive remit for the site’s health and safety committee”.

Unite has urged Sellafield Ltd and its contractors to enter into “meaningful talks”, and warned there could be further strikes if no action is taken soon.

Sellafield Ltd said in a statement that it had “nor formal part in this dispute” as it was “entirely a matter for those contracting companies and their workforces to resolve”.

Unite regional secretary Mick Whitley said: “Our experience shows that a full-time union convenor would help ensure a healthier, more productive and profitable workplace.  Workers want to work in a safe environment with constructive industrial relations.

“The continued refusal by Sellafield Ltd and the sub-contractors to implement arrangements which are commonplace across the industry puts this reasonable expectation at risk.

“Our members are sick and tired of being treated like second class citizens on one of Europe’s biggest construction projects.

“We would urge Sellafield Ltd and the sub-contractors to start treating their workers as partners and enter meaningful talks.”

Sellafield Ltd said: “Sellafield Ltd has no formal part in this dispute, which is entirely a matter for those contracting companies and their workforces to resolve.

“However, any dispute that results in industrial action on the site risks delaying important work and increasing cost to the taxpayer which is highly regrettable.

“We urge a speedy resolution in order to ensure the contractors and employees concerned are fully focused on delivering progress at the site.

“During any industrial action, our overriding priority is the safety and security of the site and measures are in place to ensure this is maintained during this action.

“This is a dispute about the welfare of workers in the contractor community and not about the safety of the Sellafield site. Sellafield is a safe place to work, as proved by our track record, with 2014/15 producing one of our best ever set of safety statistics and eight gold awards from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).”