Government denies union claim that Drax strikes could lead to national power cuts

The Government has denied union claims that nine days of planned walkouts by staff at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire could result in national power cuts.

An initial nine days of strike action by workers at Drax power station in North Yorkshire was announced this morning, with Unite suggesting the walkouts could result in potential power cuts.

But a Government spokesperson said this afternoon: “Potential strike action at Drax power station will not lead to power cuts.

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“The UK has a secure and diverse energy system, and we are confident in our plans to protect households and businesses, including vulnerable households, in all scenarios this winter.”

The sun sets at Drax Power Station, near Selby.Picture by Simon HulmeThe sun sets at Drax Power Station, near Selby.Picture by Simon Hulme
The sun sets at Drax Power Station, near Selby.Picture by Simon Hulme

An eight per cent pay increase offer has been rejected by workers, with an initial nine days of strike action announced by Unite. The union said the move, involving more than 180 workers, will close the station down on the walkout days. But Drax bosses today said they had “robust plans” in place to maintain supply. When Drax is fully operational it generates seven per cent of the UK’s electricity.

The first strike is planned for February 20, with following walkouts planned on February 27, then March 6, 13, 20, 27 and April 4, 10 and 17.

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.

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“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.”

United said workers “are particularly incensed that the company is trying to force through a real terms pay cut at a time when it is making huge profits due to the increase in the cost of electricity”. Drax is estimated to generate profits in excess of £680 million 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.  

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“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.”