Prospect calls for health checks on nuclear sale

Prospect calls for health checks on nuclear sale

Strict ‘public interest’ criteria must govern the proposed sale of Westinghouse, British Nuclear Fuels’ design and manufacturing arm, Britain’s largest nuclear union has warned.

After press reports that BNFL has decided to sell Westinghouse to Toshiba, Prospect said that any sale must meet the same criteria on safety, security, the environment and industrial relations as should apply to the sale of BNFL itself.

On behalf of 6,000 scientists, engineers and managers in BNFL, Mike Graham, Prospect National Secretary, will meet BNFL board members for formal consultation on the sale on Friday, along with other unions in BNFL.

Graham said: "We have already put forward new ownership criteria for the British Nuclear Group to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the BNFL board. There must be a similar in-depth investigation into the culture and practice in any new organisation that takes over Westinghouse. We will be looking to BNFL to ensure that reciprocal visits by trade union representatives can take place between Toshiba workplaces and BNFL and Westinghouse sites."

Graham added that there was a strong view among the Westinghouse workforce that they should share in the benefits of any sale through a share issue to employees.

"That would give staff a stake in the business going forward. At Friday’s meeting, unions will expect to hear how the company intends to reward the people who have turned Westinghouse around and made a success out of it, not just the consultants and its current owners."

Graham pointed out that the high sale price for Westinghouse, rumoured to be $5 billion, represented an excellent return on BNFL’s investment of $1.2 billion when it bought the company in 1998.

"Some of that return should come back to the workforce, not least to fund any pension deficit that there may be in the nuclear industry at this time. Pension provision has still to be sorted out in Westinghouse itself," he stressed.

Westinghouse employs 1,400 people at BNG’s Springfields site at Salwick, near Preston.