HUNDREDS of workers at HM Naval Base Clyde will begin a "rolling programme" of industrial action today in an escalating dispute over pay and bargaining rights.

Staff employed by Babcock Marine, the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) main civilian partner, as well as ISS Facility Services personnel at Faslane and Coulport will take part in the strike action from 10am on Friday, March 12.

The move follows ‘overwhelming’ support from members of the Unite trade union, with 95 per cent of respondents to a ballot last month voting in support of strike action on a 65 per cent turnout.

The rolling strike action will also be held in conjunction with a continuous call out ban and ban on all overtime.

The 'industrial' workforce, which covers roles such as electricians, mechanical fitters, plumbers and joiners, have already rejected a pay offer of 1.1 per cent for 2020. For 2021 and 2022, the offer was based on the consumer price index plus 0.5 per cent.

Unite has repeatedly raised concerns over the future of the nuclear naval bases following the imminent outcome of the MoD's Future Maritime Support Programme (FMSP).

READ MOREBabcock denies Unite 'gagging order' claims in naval base dispute

Unite has warned that splitting national security contracts into smaller work packages endangers the country’s military power and nuclear response capabilities.

The trade union has also criticised Babcock Marine management for refusing to engage with Unite on the future shape of the bases following the contract decision, which is expected to be decided upon in April 2021. The contracts are anticipated to run until March 2026.

Stephen Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “The strike action set to take place at the Clyde nuclear naval bases falls fully on the shoulders of Babcock Marine management.

"Unite representatives have for a number of weeks sought to resolve this dispute.

"However, the company has taken the deliberate decision to escalate this dispute by refusing to meaningfully engage with us on pay and the future workplace relations at the bases."

Strike action by Babcock staff is also currently occurring at RAF Leeming, in North Yorkshire, where more than 50 workers who provide operational and engineering services for aircraft, including the Hawk trainer aircraft, have been on strike since January over a £5,000 shift pay disparity.

READ MOREUnite slams Capita over plan to cut firefighter jobs at Faslane and Coulport

Mr Deans added: “Any day now we are about to receive the outcome of the Ministry of Defence’s Future Maritime Support Programme, which is potentially worth up to £200m on the Clyde.

"Instead of discussing with Unite how we can work together following this major decision, Babcock Marine has ignored us and ultimately the workforce.

"Babcock Marine can pull this situation back from the brink if they finally get back to negotiating with us, but if they do not, then strike action involving hundreds of workers will continue until management see sense.”

In a separate disupte at HMNB Clyde, Unite has raised "major concerns" over plans by outsourcing firm Capita to reduce the fire crew at the Coulport and Faslane nuclear naval bases by eight positions, back filling the roles using local authority retained firefighters.

A Babcock spokesperson told the Advertiser: "We are deeply disappointed that some members of the Unite trade union at HNMB Clyde have chosen to take industrial action in a dispute about a pay claim, when we have been clear that we are keen to try to find a mutually acceptable resolution. 

"We increased our offer during talks with Unite at the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and believe this is a very fair pay deal that is higher than the rate of inflation.

"The dispute also includes a matter concerning trade union collective bargaining, linked to an ongoing Ministry of Defence procurement process that Babcock has no ability to influence.

"We work closely with all our trades unions colleagues and have pulled together to keep our employees working safely throughout the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"We remain focused on delivering the safe, secure operations that our team at HMNB Clyde are renowned for and are keen to keep talking to all stakeholders in order to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible."

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