UK's nuclear defence on brink as Royal Navy faces being 'crippled' by industrial action

The contractors hired to maintain weapons systems on Trident submarines have voted for industrial action to be taken, which one union warned will put the UK’s nuclear defence on the brink. Trident, also called the Trident nuclear programme or Trident nuclear deterrent, is an operational system of four Vanguard-class submarines armed with nuclear missiles. At least one submarine is always on patrol to provide a continuous at-sea capability, which the Ministry of Defence (MOD) says is to “deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life, which cannot be done by other means”.

Unite the Union, the largest trade union in the UK, has said that 90 percent of specialist staff it represents at the Coulport armaments base on Loch Long have backed industrial strikes if bosses do not meet their pay demands.

The depot by the Firth of Clyde is the storage and loading facility for nuclear warheads which are put onto submarines based at nearby Faslane.

A strike over overtime could prove detrimental to essential maintenance that has been carefully planned up to a year in advance of each nuclear submarine leaving port.

The staff at the facility have been hired by three different private companies – AWE, Babcock Marine, and Lockheed Martin UK Strategic Systems.

They form part of the ABL Alliance, a joint venture which in 2013 won a 15-year contract from the Ministry of Defence to maintain the weapons systems at the facility.

Stevie Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, called recent the unfolding of events “unprecedented” and “historic”.

He added: “The emphatic vote in support of industrial action at RNAD Coulport is a final warning shot to the ABL Alliance.

“Let’s be clear about the significance of this result – by over 90 percent Unite’s members support taking forms of industrial action in a ballot turnout of 90 percent at the nation’s nuclear naval bases.

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He said: “The reality is that due to the nature of the work performed by our members then even an overtime ban could cripple the effective running of operations at RNAD Coulport.

“If the employers refuse to move quickly, then industrial action will strike at the heart of the nation’s nuclear deterrent in a matter of weeks.”

An MOD spokeswoman said: “We are aware of ongoing pay negotiations between the ABL Alliance and the Unite trade union and are hopeful that a resolution will be reached by all parties.

The continued safe operation of HM Naval Base Clyde is of paramount importance and the safe management of the port will not be compromised.”

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