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Dounreay management moves ‘could prolong strike action,’ warns union

By John Davidson

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GMB members on the picket line at Dounreay in May.
GMB members on the picket line at Dounreay in May.

One of the unions representing workers at Dounreay has warned that management changes could prolong the ongoing industrial action at the former nuclear test site.

Nuclear Restoration Services (NRS) Dounreay said last month that Mark Rouse, the former managing director, had taken on a new role supporting the UK government’s nuclear skills programme.

However, insiders claimed the move came after Mr Rouse had made an unauthorised pay offer to help bring the dispute to a conclusion.

GMB Scotland, one of three unions represented at the complex along with Unite and Prospect, this week said Mr Rouse’s sudden departure “will lengthen a dispute that has already dragged on too long”.

A permanent successor has yet to be appointed, however, and Lesley-Anne MacAskill, GMB Scotland organiser in the Highlands, fears that will only further prolong a dispute that began last year and led to strikes this summer.

Workers are set to walk out again next Wednesday, June 19, while other action including an overtime ban and work to rule are said to be causing serious disruption to operations at the site.

Ms MacAskill said: “This dispute should and could have ended months ago if management had, at any point, seriously engaged with workers and explored potential pathways towards a resolution.

“Instead, they stuck their heads in the sand for months on end and, when asked to make decision, invariably decided to do nothing. The absolute refusal to take responsibility and end this dispute has been abysmal.

Lesley-Anne MacAskill, GMB organiser for the Highlands.
Lesley-Anne MacAskill, GMB organiser for the Highlands.

“Now the sudden departure of the managing director and failure to recruit a permanent replacement only risks further delay and more disruption to the effective running of a hugely important and sensitive site.

“The protracted and ongoing failure to resolve this dispute poses some grave questions about those in charge of Dounreay.”

Mr Rouse had led Dounreay for four years before his move, with John Grierson now stepping in to temporarily fill his role.

Related news:

Dounreay power station to be hit by further industrial action

Mark Rouse to leave role as Dounreay managing director

Warning that Dounreay could be facing ‘prolonged’ industrial action over pay dispute

Sources at the nuclear site, which is being decommissioned in a process that could last into the 2070s, claimed the departure of Mr Rouse came soon after he had made a verbal offer to staff unions intended to align bonus payments with colleagues in England within two years.

One said: “The pay talks had been rolling on for months, more than a year, when at the end of March, Mark Rouse spoke to the unions about a potential settlement.

“On the face of it, it might have been the basis of a deal, but the unions never received written confirmation.

“Within weeks, NRS told them it was off the table and replaced with an offer that was nowhere close.

“Mark Rouse was nowhere near the subsequent discussions and, weeks later, he was suddenly transferred to who knows where?

“The strong suggestion was that his pay offer had not been authorised by his bosses and, when they found out, he was shipped out. It seemed a very sudden and rushed departure a few weeks later.”

Mr Grierson, who is NRS operations director, will now serve as acting managing director for Dounreay for six months while a permanent replacement is recruited.

Workers from the Unite and GMB unions joined the picket line at Dounreay last month.
Workers from the Unite and GMB unions joined the picket line at Dounreay last month.

Members of GMB and Unite are still disputing a 4.5 per cent pay offer backdated to April 2023. Members of the Prospect union accepted an enhanced deal which included a £500 one-off payment on top of the increase.

The strike on June 19 will be the third walkout since the start of May.

A spokeswoman for NRS Dounreay said: “Mark is taking on a new leadership role supporting the UK Government's nuclear skills programme. His appointment is unrelated to ongoing discussions between NRS and trade unions to resolve the pay dispute at Dounreay.

“The recruitment for a new permanent managing director has already begun and, in the meantime, John Grierson has been appointed to the role on an interim basis. John is a hugely experienced leader, having worked nearly 40 years in the nuclear industry.

“Negotiations between NRS and the trade unions are ongoing.”

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