THE home of Britain’s nuclear weapons on the Clyde could be “crippled” by industrial action in a dispute over pay.
Unite Scotland confirmed that that around 70 of its members who provide specialist services for the UK’s nuclear deterrent submarines are to be balloted for industrial action in what it called a “historic” development at the Royal Naval Armaments Depot (RNAD) Coulport.
The workers involved in the ballot provide care and maintenance services for the weapons systems on the Royal Navy nuclear armed submarine fleet.
If the ballot for industrial action is successful, then strike action, and action short of a strike, will take place from the beginning of October.
Unite said it was understood that due to the specialist nature of the services then action short of a strike including an over time ban could potentially “cripple” the operations at Coulport.
Staff involved in the dispute cover three separate private companies – AWE plc, Babcock Marine (Clyde) Ltd, and Lockheed Martin UK Strategic Systems Ltd.
The companies are part of the ABL Alliance which is a joint venture awarded a contract by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Under the 15-year contract, which commenced in January 2013, the ABL Alliance provide services for the weapon system at Coulport, as well as the Strategic Weapon Support Building (SWSB) Faslane.
AWE workers are involved mainly in the maintenance side of the weapon system operation, whereas the Lockheed Martin workers are responsible for specialist engineering and quality control.
Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard arrives back at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, Scotland following a patrol.
Babcock workers provide the Jetty Services at RNAD Coulport. Her Majesty’s Naval Base, Clyde is the navy’s headquarters in Scotland and is best known as Britain’s nuclear weapons base, in the form of a fleet of four Vanguard-class submarines equipped with Trident nuclear missiles and five other Astute and Trafalgar-class nuclear-powered attack submarines.
Unite Scotland say the pay dispute is over the failure by the ABL Alliance employers to meet Unite’s 2021 wage claim, despite the union agreeing on several occasions to delay pay talks due to the Covid pandemic.
Stevie Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “The industrial action ballot being launched by Unite’s members at the Royal Naval Armaments Depot (RNAD) Coulport is historic and unprecedented in recent times.
“The workforce has been extremely patient with the ABL Alliance employers, so much so, that we agreed to delay the pay award for 2020 until this year. After reaching a potentially successful resolution to that element of the pay claim the employers unfortunately tried to put their foot down through several unacceptable pay offers for 2021, which were all below inflation. This is despite the companies collectively turning over tens of millions in profit “Unite’s members have continued to work diligently, tirelessly and professionally throughout the pandemic. Yet, the ABL Alliance employers seem intent in provoking a fight by failing to recognise the exceptional skills and professionalism of our members by making below inflation pay offers. If the employers refuse to move, then following a successful ballot, industrial action could take place from the beginning of October.”
“The reality is that due to the nature of the work performed even an over time ban could cripple the nation’s nuclear deterrent at Coulport. We urge the employers, once more, to work with us to positively resolve this dispute or the fallout will be fully laid at their doors.”
The union says it was mutually agreed that the pay award for 2020 would be negotiated retrospectively, and negotiated currently for 2021. The union says that after months of negotiations a £600 backdated pay uplift to August 1, 2020 was offered, and would be acceptable to Unite members.
However union say that the “multi-million pound profitable employers” then put forward several “unacceptable” offers for 2021, and have so far refused to meet the RPI inflation pay claim made by Unite.
The ballot over a pay dispute will open on Friday, September 10 and close on Monday, September 20.
Lockheed Martin said: “With our ABL Alliance partners, we are continuing dialogue and negotiations with Unite and are hopeful a suitable resolution can be reached by all parties.”