Is Sellafield handover under threat?
Last updated at 09:53, Thursday, 28 August 2008
SELLAFIELD has been thrown into turmoil by the effects of the strike threat hanging over the UK’s biggest nuclear site.
On top of the split between the industrial and staff unions over the management’s pay offer, speculation has swept the site that the planned hand-over to the new parent body (Nuclear Management Partners) will not take place on time if the site is hit by a strike.
Senior nuclear industry sources told The Whitehaven News that NMP will want to delay the share transfer to them from Sellafield Ltd in the event of a strike closing plants. This was denied by NMP yesterday.
But asked about the prospect and all its implications, a Sellafield spokesman said: “A sustained strike could affect the date of share transfer, which could conceivably be put back as a result. Low-level, short-term action will be unlikely to affect the date of share transfer.
“It is in everybody’s interest that the new parent body takes over a fully functioning, viable and prosperous company.”
On the threat of plant closures which might threaten jobs, Sellafield Ltd also said yesterday: “In terms of the future of plants in the event of shutdown, the first thing to say is that safety manning levels in all plants would be maintained. Extended inactivity, however, could weaken stakeholder confidence and short- to medium-term confidence.”
Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium of American, French and British companies (URS Washington, Areva and Amec) won the NDA competition to become the “preferred bidder” for the Sellafield contract, which is not due to be awarded until October 6. NMP would not move on to the site until after shares have been transferred on November 24.
Washington’s local operations director, Iain Irving, said yesterday: “I can assure you that no statements have been made by NMP to suggest any potential impact on share transfer dates as a result of any potential industrial action.
“NMP continues to work towards the share transfer programme and will make no comment regarding current industrial relations issues on site. That is a matter for the current Sellafield management team and the unions.”
According to informed sources, there are behind-the-scenes concerns over NMP going through with the handover to schedule in the event of action which halts production. On top of receiving £1.3billion a year to run Sellafield, NMP stands to make up to £50million a year in dividend based on levels of improvement and efficiency savings, a fee-earning situation which starts from day one.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said it was working closely with NMP on the share transfer “and at this stage we do not envisage any difficulties”.
Management changes could also be affected by any delay to share transfer. Sellafield’s current boss Barry Snelson is set to retire to make way for a new managing director, Bob Pedde, who has led the clean-up of Sellafield’s US equivalent at Savannah River. NMP is also expected to bring in its own executive team to overview Sellafield’s future management.
But at shopfloor level, concerns over jobs and employment security has led to staff union Prospect urging its 4,300-plus Sellafield membership to accept the pay deal. Site official Peter Clements said yesterday the ballot would start on Monday, with the result due out on September 15.
In the earlier ballot staff voted to reject the offer but Mr Clements said: “There is an improvement and we are recommending members to say ‘yes.’”
The industrial unions – GMB and Unite – have started separate ballots calling on their members to reject “a derisory offer” and vote in favour of industrial action. Their result will be known on September 8.
Management has referred to the “risks of strike action, in particular the lasting damage that any such action could cause in areas such as job security, site investment, management/union relationships and stakeholder confidence” and repeated an earlier warning from managing director Barry Snelson that a strike would be “costly and damaging”.
Asked about the threat of plant closures, Mr Clements said: “We are worried about all the plants, not just any one in particular.”
But insiders say they fear for the future of the Mox plant if it had to be shut down. Seven hundred people are employed in the plant whose performance has been put under review by the NDA.
Twelve years after its completion the plutonium recycling plant is still being commissioned. Its original cost of £300million spiralled to £473million.
“To move into a fully operational state it is necessary to apply for a consent to operate. We are in discussions with the regulators as to when to apply for the consent,” said Sellafield’s operators.
First published at 16:11, Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
Following on form the last post. If you are not happy with what you are been paid, go and get yourself a job somewhere else, there are plenty people waiting to take your place. And also dont believe whats spread in the paper about the earnings, they were well exaggerated, or should i say all before deductions.
As a computer engineer, working for a small cumbrian firm, I find it ghastly that sellafield workers are intending strike action over this pay dispute. I earn about Â£14,000 a year before tax for my 37.5 hour week, and I dare say my job is a bit more complicated than the average sellafield worker earning twice that. The Â£25,000+ starting salary for Trainee Control Systems engineers nearly tempted me to work for sellafield, but frankly, i am disgusted by the fact that the sellafield workers complain bitterly that they deserve a pay rise, yet will often not even shop locally. I am damn sure if they invested some of their earning purchasing goods and services locally, instead of from the internet, or carlisle, it would go some way to ensuring more comparable wages for those west cumbrians that DON'T work at sellafield.
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