The lives of the public could be put at risk due to staff ‘being cut to the bone’ at Britain’s military training ranges, Unite, the country’s largest union, warned today (Thursday 30 October).
Unite is calling on its 325 members at Landmarc Support Services, which runs the ranges for the Ministry of Defence (MOD), to strike for 24 hours from 00.01 on Monday (3 November) in a dispute about proposed redundancies, safety issues and lack of consultation.
Unite said that the core of the dispute was the lowest possible bid put in by Landmarc to secure the five-year contract, after the company feared that it was going to lose the contract it had held for a decade.
Unite understands that there will be a loss of 370 positions, bringing the UK workforce at the ranges down to about 1,000.
Unite has now written to the MOD HR department asking for the contract to be reviewed, particularly the decision to handover the running of the ranges to service personnel.
Unite said that it is likely that the ranges will have to close on health and safety grounds as a rolling programme of strike action unfolds during November because the rangers won’t be available to ensure safety for any members of the public that stray onto the ranges.
In his letter to the MOD, Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “If the professional range wardens are removed during live firing training it is our view that it will be a matter of time before a fatality occurs.
“During the past year there have been numerous incidents on the ranges which would have resulted in a fatality, if the professional wardens had not been present. Two years ago an Irish Ranger soldier in Wales was killed. All ranges throughout the country need to be in control of fully trained range wardens.”
The sites affected by Monday’s strike will include: Penhale training camp, Newquay, Cornwall; Warcop training centre, Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria; Kirkcudbright, Dumfries; Blackness Road, Dundee; Garelochhead training camp, Dunbartonshire; Caerwent training area, Gwent; Cameron Barracks, Inverness. Longmoor training camp, Liss, Hampshire; Beckingham, Lincoln; Sennybridge training centre, Powys; Otterburn, Newcastle; Wathgill Camp, Richmond, North Yorkshire; Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire; St Martins Plain, Hythe, Kent, Lydd camp, Romney Marsh and Napier Barracks, Folkstone; Tilshead, Salisbury; Brunswick Camp, Pirbright, Surrey; Ash ranges, Ash, Surrey; and West Tofts Camp, Thetford, Norfolk.
Bob Middleton said: “The strikes are about the safety of the ranges and how Landmarc wants to drive down wages and increase the working hours. Some of our members, who earn a modest basic of £16,000-£19,000-a-year, could lose up to £6,000 in salary and overtime payments.
“The new contract that Landmarc was awarded is based on drastic cutting to the bone in terms of staff numbers, pay, and terms and conditions. This contract needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency by the MOD.
“It is our view that the ranges won’t be able to open for training and this could affect the army’s training plans with a knock-on impact on any deployment that the MOD may wish to make in the near future.”
Further 24 hour strikes are planned for:
- Warcop training centre, Appleby-in-Westmorland starting at 00:01 on Thursday 6 November
- Sennybridge training centre, Powys and Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire commencing at 00:01 hours on Monday 10 November
- St Martins Plain, Hythe, Kent and Lydd Camp, Romney Marsh on three days starting at 00:01 on Tuesday 11 November, Thursday 20 November and Tuesday 25 November 2014
- Longmoor training camp, Liss, Hampshire, Brunswick camp, Pirbright, Surrey and Ash ranges, Ash, Surrey commencing at 00:01 on Tuesday 11 November 2014.
The jobs covered by Unite members include range wardens, technicians, administrators and estate workers.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.