WE’LL PUT THE LIGHTS OUT THIS CHRISTMAS
Strike-threat union chief’s chilling warning:
UNION bosses have threatened to turn the lights off this Christmas in a row over power workers’ overtime demands.
Millions of families could face electricity shortages amid a stand-off at two nuclear plants which provide more than a third of the country’s energy. GMB scotland has condemned plans to cut a long-standing agreement on pay and overtime, saying there would be ‘profound implications’ if its demands were not met.
It is balloting staff at Hunterston B and Torness nuclear power stations in a move that could ultimately mean hundreds of workers go on strike.
In a statement, the union said: ‘GMB scotland has... warned that industrial action at both of scotland’s nuclear power stations could leave the country without a third of its electricity supply this Christmas as a dispute over cuts to staff terms and conditions intensifies.’
scottish Tory energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: ‘A union instigating strike action when it would hurt consumers most is unacceptable.
‘If this goes ahead and causes issues with electricity supply over Christmas, the public in scotland will be
absolutely furious at the trade union involved.’
GMB Scotland claims that EDF Energy, which runs the two sites, plans to cut a long-standing agreement covering pay and terms and conditions which apply during ‘statutory outage’ periods.
Statutory outages are carried out on each reactor at nuclear sites every three years – planned in advance with the National Grid to ensure there is no impact on electricity supply.
This year, one of the two reactors at Torness was taken off-line for nine weeks when 12,000 separate pieces of work were carried out. Around 600 additional workers were drafted in to help the 750 staff members at the plant.
Work during outages can include inspec these tions of the reactor’s internal vessels and replacement of cooling water pipework.
During these periods, regular power plant staff work extra hours and they receive ‘enhanced payments’ for the additional tasks they carry out – but according to union chiefs, this national agreement is set to disappear.
The GMB will ballot workers across the UK, including 1,500 workers at Hunterston B, Ayrshire, and Torness, East Lothian.
GMB Scottish secretary Gary Smith said: ‘Industrial action at Hunterston B and Torness could have profound implications for electricity generation and supply across Scotland but we have been left with little choice other than to take on EDF over draconian cuts. Outages are a statutory requirement, a safety-critical process delivering the maintenance of our nuclear reactors. During these periods, staff become fully available, work flexibly to accommodate the employer’s requirements and receive enhanced rates in return.
‘The outages rates were negotiated by trade unions because this is an intensive period of work that places significant demands on staff across the UK’s nuclear fleet and it is ludicrous that a hugely profitable multinational like EDF is trying to break this agreement.
‘This is not a decision we are taking lightly, but we hope that EDF will see sense, withdraw this cuts imposition on our members’ terms and conditions and return to negotiations with GMB and our sister trade unions.’
EDF, one of the country’s Big Six energy companies, has confirmed there will be changes to overtime payments during statutory outages because of increasing costs and plummeting income in the electricity sector.
A spokesman said: ‘We are actively engaged in consultation with our trade union partners, including GMB, and are not aware of any ballot notifications.
‘We’re sharing open and constructive dialogue in a period where costs are going up and income from electricity generation is going down, and have been having productive conversations on how to achieve our shared goals.’
It is believed that if the strikes were to go ahead, contingencies would be put in place to keep the Grid operating effectively.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘The Scottish Government has a strong record of encouraging employers to recognise the importance of fair work and of working closely with trade unions.
‘We would encourage the GMB and EDF to engage constructively in order to reach a suitable conclusion.’
The union will hold a UK-wide consultative ballot across EDF’s nuclear plants between October 16 and November 6.
‘Hugely profitable multinational’
THE spectacle of union barons revelling in the prospect of disruption as a result of a strike has become depressingly familiar.
This time they are threatening industrial action at the Hunterston B and Torness nuclear plants, which could leave Scotland without a third of its electricity supply.
It comes as little surprise that the dispute would take place over Christmas – a time when such a catastrophic loss of power would cause chaos for millions of families.
The GMB is locked in a row about overtime payments with the employer, EDF Energy, which the union’s Scottish secretary Gary Smith claims has imposed ‘draconian cuts’.
For its part, EDF Energy insists it is ‘sharing open and constructive dialogue in a period where costs are going up and income from electricity generation is going down’.
The dinosaur union chiefs may have been buoyed by the rise of the Corbynistas.
But what they all have in common is a desire to drag us back into the 1970s, when blackouts were common, with their cavalier disregard for the public.
HAS the Conservative Party abandoned one of its fundamental values? For countless middle-class parents, going without to pay off the mortgage so that on their deaths their home could pass to their children – giving them a start in life – is axiomatic to Conservatism.
But according to Care Minister Jackie Doyle-Price, homeowners shouldn’t regard properties they worked for their whole lives as ‘an asset to give to their offspring’, but something to be milked for care home fees.
Even though the minister was swiftly disowned by Downing Street, if the Tories think the answer is to declare war on their core supporters – and crush the aspirations of millions of middle-class Britons – they have truly lost their marbles.