Dispute over pay could result in energy supply shocks to Scottish businesses

Unite the union confirmed today (26 January) that energy workers employed by Drax Hydro Limited who operate power stations across Scotland are to be balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay.

 Around 50 Unite members will take part in the ballot covering Stonebyre (Lanark), Cruachan (Loch Awe) and Glenlee (Castle Douglas) power stations. Drax Hydro supplies businesses and consumers.

The ballot which opens on 1 February and closes on 22 February follows the rejection of a pay offer (8 per cent) significantly below the current rate of inflation which currently stands at 13.4 per cent (RPI). 

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: "Energy workers’ pay is lagging well behind the eye-watering profits being made across the sector. 

“Drax’s parent group is awash with tens of millions in profit. Yet, Drax Hydro workers have been offered what amounts to a significant real terms wage cut, this is totally unacceptable.  We will fully support our members in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions." 

 If the ballot is successful then strike action could take place in early March.  The workers involved include engineers, plant controllers, as well as mechanical and electrical craft workers. A consultative ballot held in December 2022 indicated that strike action was supported by 84.9 per cent of Unite members.

Drax Hydro posted its latest accounts in July 2022 on Companies House indicating the company made profits totalling £2.3m for 2021. 

The Drax Group parent group posted profits of £78.7m for the year ending in December 2021. This month the energy regulator Ofgem announced that following an investigation Drax Pumped Storage Limited - a subsidiary of the parent group - paid a fine of £6.12 million for breaching the Generation Licence by submitting excessively expensive bids to turn down its generation in the balancing mechanism. 

As a result of Ofgem’s compliance work, the company admitted to having breached its Generation Licence, specifically the Transmission Constraint Licence Condition (TCLC). The TCLC prohibits generators from being paid, or seeking to be paid, an excessive amount during times of transmission system constraint.

Elaine Dougall, Unite regional co-ordinating officer said: "The pay offer on the table by Drax Hydro doesn't come close to meeting the fair and reasonable demands of our members. The Drax Group like all energy companies is benefiting from price hikes across the board. If there is no improved wage offer then our members are set to take strike action in the coming weeks.

“This could directly hit energy supplies to Scottish businesses. Drax Hydro must explain why they are prepared to jeopardise the precarious position of many Scottish businesses rather than working to resolve this dispute."