WORKERS at the Clyde nuclear base are set to strike after what a union said was "overwhelming" support for action in a pay and conditions dispute.

Unite said its membership at the Coulport and Faslane naval bases on the Clyde are set to take part in rolling industrial action after a ballot of its 1000-strong membership.

Babcock, which owns the Coulport and Faslane naval bases on the Clyde,  said it was "disappointed" by the decision.

Unite members voted by 95% in support of strike action on an aggregated 65% turnout across the three different entities at the bases - Babcock Industrial, Babcock Non-Industrial and ISS Facility Services.

Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde is the navy's headquarters in Scotland and is best known as the home of Britain's nuclear weapons, in the form of nuclear submarines armed with Trident missiles.

The dispute is over pay and conditions and comes amidst growing concern about what the union say is a lack of discussion over the future shape of the base following the contract decision.

The strike action will also be held in conjunction with a continuous call out and overtime ban. The rolling industrial action is set to begin every day from 12 March at 10am.

It comes just nine days after Unite said it was taking legal advice over a 'ban' on political activity.

Unite union leaders have been angry over what they call an instruction by Babcock Marine made to its workforce that they should not be involved in any process which could be described as political ‘lobbying’.

READ MORE: Union takes legal action over Clyde nuclear base 'political ban'

The concerns are that it may 'distort' the Ministry of Defence's new Future Maritime Support Programme (FMSP), which could be worth up to £200m to the bases.

Babcock, which owns the Coulport and Faslane naval bases on the Clyde, has been told by Unite that the "blanket ban prevents ultimate engagement" with the parliamentary process at the Scottish Parliament and Westminster to discuss non-commercially sensitive material.

HeraldScotland: FASLANE, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 17: a general view of HMNB Clyde also known as Faslane on August 17, 2016 in Faslane, Scotland. HM Naval Base Clyde – commonly known throughout the Navy as Faslane – is the Royal Navy’s main presence in Scotland. It is hom

Babcock said that the ban related to employees engaging with politicians over "non-commercially sensitive information".

The FMSP provides services such as maintenance of ships and submarines, as well as providing supplies, crew accommodation and cleaning services to naval bases.

Currently the work is dominated by BAE Systems and Babcock, but the MoD is dividing the work up into smaller lots in a bid to save money.

Unions have written to Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, claiming that splitting work into smaller work packages to create more competition endangers the country’s military power, including the Navy’s Trident submarine nuclear deterrent based on the Clyde.

Unite said the "resounding support" for industrial action stems from a dispute over pay and bargaining rights with Babcock Marine.

The 'industrial' workforce has rejected a pay offer of 1.1% for 2020.

For 2021 and 2022, the offer was based on the consumer price index plus 0.5%. At the non-industrial side, Unite say a pay settlement was imposed without any involvement or consultation from the trade union.

The union has also raised repeated concerns over the looming outcome of the Ministry of Defence’s Future Maritime Support Programme (FMSP).

The MoD's FMSP competition process is expected to conclude in April 2021. And the work is expected to run till March 2026.

It is estimated that the work from the FMSP could be worth between £175-£200m. The figure is based on the Ministry of Defence stating that the FMSP scheme is projected to deliver up to a 30 per cent saving from the previous framework, which had a five-year operating figure of £250M on the Clyde.

Unite has already put politicians on alert including writing to Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, over the looming contract decision warning 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.

Stephen Deans, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, said: “The overwhelming support for industrial action from Unite’s membership at the Clyde naval bases should be seen as a strong signal of the frustration and genuine anger felt by the workforce. Until this point, Babcock Marine have refused to meaningfully engage with us on pay and the future workplace relations at the bases following the outcome of the Ministry of Defence’s Future Maritime Support Programme.”

“Unless Babcock Marine management get back round the negotiating table and start to behave responsibly then a wave of industrial action is set to strike the bases from the middle of March. This is at a time when contracts worth up to £200m will be decided upon. This situation is not irretrievable or inevitable but a change is solely dependent upon the company meaningfully engaging with Unite, and we hope they take up this final opportunity before action starts.” 

A leaked letter from the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) sent to Mr Wallace says the existing system has “delivered substantial savings and efficiencies” and “robust working relationships”.

It warns that separating work “has the potential to undermine these relationships and inject confusion and dilution of accountability into the support of the continuous at sea deterrent and surface fleet”.

The CSEU letter, signed by general secretary Ian Waddell and asking to meet the Defence Secretary about the concerns, also questions whether the new contracts can deliver further efficiencies.

It claims the “only way the ambitious savings can be achieved is by attacking terms and conditions of employment”.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which reports to the Government on major works, has also raised concerns about the FMSP.

In its annual report in the summer, the watchdog placed a “red” warning on the FMSP, upgrading it from the “amber” level from the preceding two years. A red flag means the authority thinks “successful delivery appears to be unachievable” with issues that “do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.

A Babcock spokesman said when the legal dispute arose: "There is no ban on Babcock employees engaging with politicians over non-commercially sensitive information. We  fully recognise the right of all our employees, including those who are members of trades unions, to engage with politicians on matters of interest to them using information which is in the public domain.

"Babcock is currently in a confidential procurement process with the MOD and is not permitted to share commercially sensitive information"

A Babcock spokesman said:  “We are disappointed that our Unite Trade Union members at HMNB Clyde have chosen to vote for industrial action.  Having agreed a 2020 pay deal with part of our organisation, we remain keen to continue to engage with our unite Trade Union representatives, to try and find a mutually acceptable resolution for their members.

“Keeping people safe at HMNB Clyde remains our top priority and we will continue to work closely with our customer to deliver our commitments and ensure a safe and secure environment.

“On the matter of future bargaining arrangements, we are engaged in a competitive confidential procurement process on the Future Maritime Support Programme with the Ministry of Defence.  Only once the outcome of this competition is known can we have an informed discussion with Unite.”