Power grid for London, South East and East England facing pay strike and blackout chaos
- Monday 6 February 2023
1,300 workers employed by ‘obscenely profitable’ UK Power Networks begin strike vote
Around 1,300 workers responsible for repairing, maintaining and administrating the electricity grid for London and the South East and East of England are being balloted for pay strike action that could begin in March.
Unite, the UK’s leading union, said the workers, employed by UK Power Networks, are angry that the company, which usually offers an annual wage rise that meets or exceeds RPI inflation, has put forward a much-reduced pay offer.
This is despite UK Power Networks (owned by Hong Kong based conglomerate CK Group), having an average operating profit margin of over 50 per cent between 2017 and 2021 – almost five times higher than the FTSE-100 average. During that period, the company made a massive £2.4 billion in profits, paid for by energy consumers through standing charges on their bills.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “UK Power Networks’ rampant profiteering when people’s homes are freezing due to astronomical energy bills is a perfect illustration of why the UK’s economy is broken. And just because our members work on the power grid doesn’t mean they are exempt from the sky-high electricity bills that have helped plunge the country into crisis.
“Putting forward a pay offer our members could accept would barely make a dent in UK Power Networks’ obscene profits. The company can afford to pay and must do so.”
The company has put forward a two year pay deal for 2022/23 and 2023/24. This includes an already imposed seven per cent for the first year and an average of February 2023’s RPI and CPI(h) inflation rates for the second. The deal is not worth 18 per cent as the company claim.
The workers voted in a consultative ballot by 98 per cent to reject the deal and will be balloted for formal industrial action between 7 February and 7 March.
Unite regional officer Jane Jeffery said: “These workers literally keep the lights on and get them back on when there is a power cut. They do not want to strike but UK Power Networks is quickly closing every other avenue available to them. Disruption caused by any resultant industrial action will be entirely the fault of the company’s own greed.
“For months, UK Power Networks’ management team has negotiated in bad faith, insulting the essential roles our members perform to keep the power grid running to eke out every last drop of their massive profits. The company needs to return to the negotiating table and put forward an acceptable offer.”
Notes to editor:
Unite calls on Ofgem to pull the plug on energy profiteers
For media enquires ONLY contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.