Thursday, August 09, 2001

Sellafield workers are being given the choice of taking BNFL's latest pay offer or taking on the company for a better deal through industrial action.

Ballot papers have gone to the homes of the site's 4,000 manual workers with a recommendation from national union leaders that they should accept the two-year deal giving a rise of 2.75 per cent on basic pay and allowances plus bonuses and talks on other issues.

However, a straw poll taken by shop stewards indicated a rejection by most of the workforce, giving rise to the ballot and raising the threat of possible industrial action. The ballot papers say the company's final offer is the best to be achieved by negotiation and "the only way to make further progress would be by way of sustained and effective industrial action."

The result of the secret ballot is expected to be known around August 23. A "no" vote will lead to another ballot over whether to take industrial action.

The staff at all the BNFL sites have already accepted, saying they recognised BNFL's "exceptional circumstances" and the need to show a united front for getting the Mox plant licences and showing government its support for a viable nuclear industry.

Industrial workers claim BNFL has let them down for failing to deliver promises in the new site "equality" contract two years ago.

Independent consultants have put the gloss on Mox.

The consultants, Arthur D Little, are advising the government that there is a positive economic case for going ahead with the long-delayed plant which is needed to underpin Sellafield's future.

The plant has so far cost 460 million without being able to operate but the consultants expect it to be worth 216 million to the national economy.

The consultancy firm says "there is a robust economic case for proceeding with the plant."

Copeland MP Jack Cunningham said that as a result he had written to Margaret Becket, the government minister, saying that once the final four-week consultation process was over, the plant should be licensed without further delay.