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Sellafield workers set to strike again over health and safety concerns

Workers at the Sellafield nuclear plant will go on strike for a second time this month after a meeting over health and safety concerns was cancelled when subcontractors refused to give stewards paid release to attend.

Representatives from Unite confirmed that it would carry out industrial action on Wednesday (19 August) following the cancellation of the meeting between union stewards and the site’s subcontractor group council.

The union said that all 1,200 workers would be downing tools between 5:30am and 8am on Wednesday morning in protest over the subcontractor group’s failure to listen to their health and safety concerns.

Workers are demanding a full-time paid health and safety convenor be installed at the site and want the subcontractors to back a union-led health and safety committee.

The strike will be the second in the space of two weeks at the Sellafield nuclear site after 1,200 workers walked out on the 5 August.

A Unite spokesman said: “Today’s meeting was cancelled.

This was due to the Sellafield subcontractor group refusing paid release for the stewards to attend the meeting. It will now take place on Monday (17 August), when an escalating strategy will be agreed.

“This refusal to allow accredited reps to attend a meeting on site underlines the draconian attitude of the contractors at Sellafield and means that industrial relations are now teetering on the edge of the abyss.”

Unite senior shop steward at Sellafield Ryan Armstrong told Construction News: “All we are asking for is for the [subcontracting council] to come to the table and end this nonsense.

“Everyone looks to Sellafield as the prestige site but with things as they are at the moment, we are no prestige site.

“We should all come together as stakeholders before things start getting worse.”

A statement from the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry contractor group at Sellafield read: “Sellafield is acknowledged as one of the safest major construction sites in the country for all aspects of safety performance.

“Therefore, Unite’s assertion that the current dispute is about safety simply does not ring true.

“The national agreement under which we operate – a partnership between employers and unions also demands a strong commitment to safety. As employers we endorse this through working with an extensive network of trade union representatives (28 in total). We see no reason why this system, which has served us well for a number of years, cannot continue to provide ongoing success.”

A spokesman for Sellafield Ltd said: “Obviously we are disappointed with any industrial action at our site.

“However, this is not a dispute involving Sellafield Ltd and Sellafield Ltd employees. It is an industrial dispute between a group of contracting companies and their employees which we hope they will resolve as soon as possible. It is for them to comment.

“But let me be very clear, this dispute has absolutely nothing to do with health and safety at Sellafield Ltd. We have had a record year in terms of health and safety, including our contract community. It also has no link to the productivity or profitability of Sellafield Ltd.”

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