drax power station

Blackouts possible as Drax employees plan strikes over wages

Image credit: DT

A union has warned of possible power cuts in the UK later this month after workers employed at Drax power station in Yorkshire have threatened strike action in a dispute over pay.

Around 180 workers, who are members of Unite, have rejected an eight per cent pay increase as it was deemed to be a “substantial” pay cut in real terms. The current inflation rate according to the retail price index (RPI) stands at 13.4 per cent.

When Drax is fully operational it generates seven per cent of the UK’s electricity, but the proposed strike action would force Drax to temporarily shut down.

Due to tight supplies of natural gas and concerns over energy security, Drax was asked to start warming some of its elderly coal generators in January as energy demand soared amid low temperatures. A similar request was made in December, although the extra power ended up not being needed.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a classic case of greed by a company which is already generating eye-watering profits. Drax is cynically seeking to boost its bonanza profits further by forcing workers to take a real-terms pay cut.

“Unite is now totally focused on the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and the workers at Drax will be receiving the union’s complete support.”

Unite has announced an initial nine days of strike action, with one-day strikes taking place on 20 and 27 February, followed by several more dates in March and April.

Unite said the workers were “incensed” that Drax was failing to rise wages in line with the RPI despite the fact is has made significant profits in recent months due to the increase in the cost of electricity.

According to the union, Drax is estimated to generate profits in excess of £680m for 2022, an increase of over 50 per cent on the previous year.

Unite regional officer Shane Sweeting said: “The strike action at Drax will inevitably cause considerable strain on the national grid but this dispute is completely of the company’s own making. Drax has had every opportunity to make our members a fair offer, but it has repeatedly failed to do so.”

A Drax spokesperson said: “In the event of industrial action, Drax has robust plans in place to ensure the power station continues to safely generate renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses.

“We have put forward a generous full and final pay settlement which rewards our valued colleagues with a significant pay rise worth 10 per cent and a £2,000 lump sum.

“We are deeply disappointed that Unite is planning to go forward with this unnecessary action which will see colleagues lose money instead of securing a significant pay rise. Drax remains open to dialogue with Unite to avoid industrial action.

“There are three trade unions representing colleagues at Drax Power Station and this offer has been accepted by Prospect, while GMB has stated it will not be taking industrial action.”

Last summer, environmental campaigners warned that the power station’s plans to install a carbon capture facility on site could see its total energy output drop by a third and increase the risk of blackouts.

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