The directors of Drax power station in north Yorkshire, part of the Drax Group, have been accused of ‘bad faith’ over 230 proposed redundancies when a pay deal last year pledged there would be no compulsory job losses.
Unite said today (June 9) that it was preparing to hold a ballot for industrial action, including the option for strike action, later this month, with the possibility of strikes later in the summer.
A consultative ballot saw members vote by 85 per cent to proceed to a full-scale ballot.
The dispute centres on the six-unit site at Selby where the Drax Group Ltd is planning to close two coal-fired units next April. The other four units are biomass, using wood chip pellets.
The coal powered units are being potentially replaced by gas generation ones, after the recent judicial review last month.
Unite said that when the pay deal was hammered out last year, it was agreed that there would be no compulsory redundancies among the 600-strong workforce – but management has now backtracked on the agreement.
Unite pointed out that the Selby site alone generated £415m in profit in 2019/20 for the group and if the company adopted a scheme of natural wastage as workers left or retired, this would cost just £25m a year until the direct workforce is reduced – with many of these jobs being outsourced to contract companies, after telling staff these were being brought in to protect the employees’ jobs long term.
“What we have here is a classic case of bad faith by the management as this highly profitable company pledged there would no compulsory redundancies when the pay deal was agreed in 2019,” commented Unite regional officer Shane Sweeting.
“They have now backtracked on this promise, despite the Selby staff working flat-out during the pandemic and being classed as key workers.
“Our highly skilled members are furious and voted by 85 per cent to proceed to an industrial action ballot later this month which could give the ‘green light’ for strike action towards the end of July.
“The management has a window of opportunity to negotiate with Unite for a natural wastage scheme as workers leave the plant’s employment. We note the massive profits that the Selby site alone generates for the Drax Group – £415m in the last financial year.
“A natural wastage scheme would cost £25m a year during the limited period it would be in operation – which is small beer compared with the very generous profits generated. It is time for the Drax management to have a serious rethink.”
By Shaun Noble