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Stress ‘off the scale’ at Sellafield

Sellafield Mitie workers face stress, mental ill health and bullying ‘epidemic’ 
Barckley Sumner, Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

A confidential survey of Unite members employed by Mitie at Sellafield has revealed shocking high levels of stress, mental ill health, financial problems and bullying among workers.


The survey found that 91 per cent of members said that in the past year they had experienced stress at work. The principle causes of stress were low pay (66 per cent), too much work per shift (52 per cent) and bullying at work (28 per cent). Over a quarter of the affected workers (28 per cent) had to visit their GP due to stress with 18 per cent having to take time off work due to the condition.


It has been recently reported that there are major bullying problems across the Sellafield site but the problems on the Mitie contract are at epidemic levels, according to Unite’s survey. Just under half of respondents (49 per cent) report they have suffered from bullying or harassment at work. The affected workers report that this has primarily been from their line manager (62 per cent) and/or Mitie itself (52 per cent).


Workers also report severe financial problems due to Mitie’s low pay regime with 46 per cent of members reporting that in the past 12 months they have been forced to borrow money from friends or relatives.


The workers are also suffering from mental health issues, with nearly a third (31 per cent) indicating they had a mental health problem, and nearly two thirds (62 per cent) being forced to take time off work because of the illness.


The vast majority of workers have absolutely no confidence in Mitie being concerned for their welfare. Two thirds (66 per cent) believed that Mitie did not take workers’ physical or mental health seriously.


The results of the survey come as it was announced that the workers who undertake soft services (catering, cleaning, security, laundry and environmental roles) at the nuclear reprocessing site return to picket lines tomorrow (June 6) after peace talks collapsed. Strike action will now continue until 6am on Monday, June 17. The workers have already taken 26 days of strike action since industrial action began in April.


“The findings of the survey are horrific,” said Unite regional organiser Ryan Armstrong. “Levels of stress, bullying, mental and physical ill health are off the scale.


“Many of Mitie’s staff are being forced to borrow money from family and friends while some have even had to resort to food banks because of the company’s poverty pay,” he added.


“The level of suffering being experienced by Mitie workers at Sellafield is a stain on both companies. Immediate action needs to be taken to relieve this workplace misery.


“Unite entered negotiations in good faith but Mitie’s refusal to put additional money on the table meant the talks were doomed to failure.


“If Mitie and Sellafield are serious about resolving this dispute, then they need to return to the negotiating table and make a sensible offer and then tackle the working practices which are making our members ill.”


Unite had suspended the latest strike action which was due to begin on Sunday 2 June, as an act of goodwill to allow negotiations to end the dispute to take place. However Unite has accused Mitie of acting in bad faith by refusing to put any new money on the table, in the dispute over low pay.


The workers taking the industrial action are principally paid just £8.45 an hour.


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