Prospect to ballot shipyard workers on strike action

Prospect to ballot shipyard workers on strike action

Prospect, the union for 18,000 defence specialists, has announced that 280 members at BAE Surface Ships (formerly BVT) are to be balloted on industrial action over a long-running pay dispute.

The majority of members work at the company’s shipbuilding and repair facility in Portsmouth naval base with a small number working in Glasgow. The union will ask members to support both strike action and action short of a strike.

BAE has made the pay offer, worth 3 per cent, contingent upon a number of changes to terms and conditions, which the company describe as ‘enablers.’

These include the acceptance of a UK mobility agreement; the removal of collective bargaining rights from an unspecified number of staff; and changes to the working week for former VT staff. This latter group of workers transferred to Portsmouth from Southampton in 2003 on the understanding that they would work a compressed four-day week.

BAE want to end this arrangement and revert to five-day working for this group. The company has also demanded that staff agree to a raft of new policies and conditions as part of a harmonisation programme.

However, BAE and their predecessor company BVT have refused to undertake a TUPE transfer consultation with staff on grounds that a share transfer has taken place and staff continue to work for their original employing entities.

Prospect negotiator John Ferrett said: “Members have been left with little option other than to consider industrial action. BAE Surface Ships is seeking wholesale changes to terms and conditions through the pay award, but without giving any consideration to the differential impact the pay offer will have on some members.

“For example members working in the former VT areas will see a 20 per cent increase in travel costs but will receive the same award as those who are not being asked to change their working hours.”

“BAE are seeking to cherry pick the areas they wish to harmonise whilst refusing to address other areas, such as redundancy entitlements, which may be to the advantage of the employees. This is no way to treat professional employees who are key to the management and delivery of the business.”