On Wednesday May 26th, rank and file electricians shut down work at the Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield site as the latest escalation in the ongoing #No2ESO dispute over construction companies attempting to de-skill their trade.
The last few months have seen regular actions by rank and file “sparks” (electricians) in response to construction contractors NG Bailey and Balfour Beatty attempting to use untrained workers to carry out vital electrical work on the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor project. Referring to the horrific consequences that have been caused by contractors trying to save costs in the recent past, some electricians have warned that the “Electrical Support Operative” (ESO) grade could lead to a “nuclear Grenfell” at the Hinkley Point site, and that it would set a potential that could lead to safety being undermined at other major infrastructure projects such as HS2.
NG Bailey have been unwilling to change course in the face of protests, and so on Wednesday May 26th, the national construction rank and file blockaded one of their most prestigious contracts, the Ministry of Defence-owned Atomic Weapons Establishment site at Burghfield, near Reading.
Workers at the site were turned away by the protest, and one electrician commented “We’ve caused major disruption, just like the companies are trying to do to our working lives by de-skilling our trade.” Recent protests have focused more on NG Bailey, who have taken a more hard-line approach throughout the dispute, but Balfour Beatty have still not released a binding statement confirming that they’ve fully abandoned the ESO plan, and so future protests will continue to target Balfour sites, including their work at Sellafield.
Meanwhile, NG Bailey management will be put in the uncomfortable position of having to explain why their cost-cutting plans have now led to major disruption at one of the most sensitive Ministry of Defence sites.