Dounreay nuclear power workers could take strike action after refusing a new pay deal.
The three unions with staff at Dounreay – Unite, Prospect, and GMB – have all conducted consultative ballots with their members on the current 1.75% offer, and have voted by more than 70% to reject the offer.
The unions are now going to ballot for industrial action, including an overtime ban, working to rule and strike action.
Unite’s full time officer Richard Whyte said: “We expect there will be overwhelming support for industrial action, including strike action.
“In recent years Dounreay workers have been trapped by the public sector pay cap.”
John Deighan, the Unite convener at Dounreay, added: “Obviously for a time the workers were prepared to make sacrifices to safeguard their jobs.
“But they feel it’s now time to get a decent pay deal to make up for the years of the pay cap and ‘austerity wages’.
“The company has made plenty in recent years and can definitely afford to pay more than the less than 2% that’s been put on the table so far.”
Liz Gordon, Scottish regional officer for the GMB Union, said: “The offer was so derisory it doesn’t merit serious consideration so the ballot will continue as planned.
“This workforce has tolerated austerity pay awards for several years. It has now come to the stage where their income is being seriously eroded. Given the sizable profits made by the [decommissioning] contracts, our members have lost patience and we are now on the brink of industrial action.”
Meanwhile, Richard Hardy, Prospect’s National Secretary for Scotland, said: “Our members at Dounreay have not taken this step lightly.
“For too long now we have seen a situation where public money is spent at Dounreay to achieve decommissioning but the staff who are working to achieve this see their real wages cut whilst money flows to the shareholders, our members are fed up with seeing wealth that’s created in Caithness being cashed in California.
“This is unfair not just to our members but to the local economy of Caithness and Sutherland as a whole.”
All the union leaders at Dounreay are certain that there will be a huge vote in favour of industrial action.
If that turns out to be the case, the action will begin towards the end of January.
A Dounreay spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed that the trade unions are proceeding to ballot their members as we are still actively negotiating and have made an offer that we believe to be comparable if not better than other publicly funded organisations in the nuclear decommissioning industry.”