Strike-threat union chief’s chill­ing warn­ing:

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Rachel Wat­son Deputy Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

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.

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