Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/29093

Posted on 10 May 2019 at 16:25 GMT

Pickets and supporters at Sellafield, May 2019, photo by Robert Charlesworth

Pickets and supporters at Sellafield, May 2019, photo by Robert Charlesworth   (Click to enlarge)

Mitie workers at Sellafield striking against poverty pay

Brent Kennedy, Cumbria Unite Community

If anyone thinks that "social partnership" - trade unions and bosses working together for supposedly common interests - delivers decent pay and conditions for workers, let them just go to the Sellafield nuclear plant for a reality check.

Here at this multinational, multi-billion pound nuclear site, one of the biggest in the country and backed by taxpayers' money, they will find security guards, cleaners and canteen workers working for a poverty level of pay.

The canteen workers regularly work weekends without overtime pay. Until they recently joined Unite, they weren't even paid extra for working on bank holidays.

Sellafield Ltd uses outsourcing to Mitie to cut costs - to get away with those workers receiving poverty wages, well beneath the decent wage it pays to directly employed skilled workers.

One told me that because the basic wage doesn't cover his regular direct debits, he works all weekdays and all weekends, except for one weekend free a month "just to put food on the table.

Nobody should work seven days a week in this day and age. In 13 years my wage has just gone up from 6 to 8.21 an hour. The fat cats get fatter, the poor get poorer."

The canteen ladies agree. With an eye on the potential health hazards for everyone on the site, and the time taken up by site access, one says: "Everybody who works here should get at least 30 just for going through those gates."

Another points out: "We could get paid more on the checkouts at Morrisons without all the travel time and hassle ... Mitie took two weeks' pay off us, saying they'd give us it back when we leave, but they won't. We've just taken it for too long."

Fighting back

But now these disrespected and exploited workers are rising up. Around 200 have walked out of the GMB union, which they think is too cosy with the bosses, and joined Unite, which is offering a more fighting leadership.

Instead of accepting an offer of just 24p above the minimum wage like the GMB, they voted by 98% on a 70% turnout to strike for a substantial pay rise, recognition for Unite once again, and to have their voice heard.

The Unite branch representing workers directly employed by Sellafield Ltd donated 1,000 in solidarity to their striking colleagues.

Dancing on the long picket lines to keep warm, with open support from contracting workers driving past, you can see how the self-confidence of these men and women is going up.

In the face of the shameless greed and arrogance of their bullying bosses they feel the power of unity, with men and women workers from different services sticking up for each other.

When Mitie tried to divide and intimidate them with techniques used by blacklisters, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey sent a video message of support to the strikers and openly warned Mitie to back off or "the whole power of Unite will come down on you."

Unite Community and Socialist Party members support the strike. Photo by Robert Charlesworth

Unite Community and Socialist Party members support the strike. Photo by Robert Charlesworth   (Click to enlarge)

You can visibly see the power of workers' solidarity outside the main gate. All the construction contractor workers driving in stopped to take leaflets from the pickets and they took some time to inform themselves of the workers' arguments.

Despite the police opening both lanes of the road to the gate, the resulting traffic jam stretched back for several miles, delaying the start of work by about three hours. The over-run projects on the site cost half a million pounds an hour.

That's the power of workers at the point of production, construction or service. What an answer to the sceptics who say workers and unions are too weak to fight! The management has warned the contractors that it will dock their pay if they arrive late on the job, but if it does that then everyone could well walk out. So Sellafield is absorbing the cost - using taxpayers' money to help out the bosses of the private contractors.

Last week over 1,000 construction contractors magnificently walked out on strike for two days, without strike pay, in solidarity with their bullied workmates.

Ryan Armstrong, the Unite full-time officer organising the strike, told me how effective the strike was, with only one of the five canteens on this huge complex still open and the dirt piling up.

Tory MPs tell us "the best way out of poverty is to get a job". No, the best way out of poverty is to strike for more pay. A victory for these workers will inspire low-paid workers elsewhere to fight.

Please send messages of support to Michelle.Smith@unitetheunion.org

The 180 Unite members are currently taking 10 days of industrial action, which began on Saturday 4 May and ends on Monday 13 May. This is the second period of strikes following six days of action which ended on Monday 29 April. Unite has announced a further 10 days of action beginning on Sunday 19 May and ending on Wednesday 29 May.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 10 May 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 






Related links:

Sellafield:

triangleA speaker at the youth climate change protest in Newcastle, 21.6.19, photo by Elaine Brunskill

triangleDetermined nuclear workers' industrial action continues

triangleNo to Tory plans for radioactive waste under national parks

triangleChernobyl nuclear disaster - 30 years on

triangleNuclear Secrets: a dangerous dead end

Workers:

triangleCuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo

triangleOppose BT site closures - national strike ballot needed

triangleCampaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

triangle80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky rally

Poverty:

triangleDoncaster: Vigil for murdered women

trianglePoverty rises again - especially for BAME workers

triangleA timely read about a pandemic that overwhelms society

Pay:

triangleWhat would socialist universities look like?

triangleWorkplace news in brief

Unite:

triangleUnite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

5/8/20

Young Socialists

Young Socialist day of action

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Campaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

5/8/20

Black Lives Matter

North London: Socialist Party speaks at BLM protest

5/8/20

Hull

Engage for Change Hull - trade union youth festival goes online

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Why I joined - Covid changed my outlook

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Socialist Party meetings: Online and in-person

5/8/20

Young Socialists

A-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!

5/8/20

Caerphilly

GE Aviation workers march to save jobs

5/8/20

Trotsky

80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky rally

5/8/20

BAME

Fighting to end racism and capitalism

5/8/20

Doncaster

Doncaster: Vigil for murdered women

5/8/20

The Socialist

The Socialist summer schedule

5/8/20

Unite

Unite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

5/8/20

BT

Oppose BT site closures - national strike ballot needed

5/8/20

Hospital

Sick pay victory at Homerton hospital!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999