Going to be forced to work a compulsory 12-hour shift

SELLAFIELD workers in the vitrification plant say they are going to be forced to work a compulsory 12-hour shift – four hours longer than usual – the GMB union said yesterday.

The union also told The Whitehaven News that any worker who for whatever reason does not want to work 12 hours at a stretch will be “shipped out” elsewhere.

GMB regional organiser Steve Gibbons described it as forcework.

Eight hours is the normal shift. He said: “We will do everything we can to stop people being moved if they don’t want to go, and most don’t. We have had 12 hours in the past but always by agreement. This is the first time anybody will be forced – and forcing people against their will is a step too far.”

The plant is where highly radioactive liquid is turned into glass for safe storage. It is manned round the clock.

At this stage only Vit Line 1 & 2 employees (about 37 people) are affected, but the fulltime GMB officer said: “Our worry is that other plants will be next.”

Asked whether it could lead to industrial action, Mr Gibbons said: “We are not ruling anything out at this stage. There are going to be one-to-ones between individuals and the company to see who can or can’t work 12-hour shifts, then we will see what happens.”

GMB site convenor Joe Murdock said: “This is a dark day for partnership working at the Sellafield site. It doesn’t bode well for future working.

“The company talks about a journey to excellence, it’s our belief it is the opposite.”

In a statement issued just before The Whitehaven News went to press, the GMB officers said: “We are dismayed with the company’s move to force VIT lines 1 & 2 on to 12-hour shifts. The majority of GMB members do not want the shift rota, and past practice has meant that there has been no change to shift patterns without agreement.

“The GMB is even more dismayed that the company is going to move any worker who cannot work 12 hours out of that area. Many of the workers have over 20 years’ experience on the plant.”

Sellafield Ltd replied: “Currently team leaders and operators in the high-level waste plants are working two different shift patterns, which are 12 and eight-hour shifts respectively. It is basic common sense and best practice for all people who work on important plants work the same shift pattern. For many it is the much preferred option. This may mean a small number of people (who would rather not) will be moved from eight to 12 hours working temporarily as we refill the posts.

“The European Working Time Directive-compliant 12-hour shift pattern has successfully been implemented in other facilities across the Sellafield site.

“Right from the beginning of this process, consultation and discussions have taken place with the workforce concerned and the unions. The company will accommodate those employees with welfare circumstances which prevent them from transferring to the recognised 12-hour shift pattern to relocate to an alternative job.”


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