THE first day of strike action by Mitie staff working at Sellafield has been hailed a success by union representatives.

Members of the Unite union held pickets at the nuclear site today (Wednesday) in a row over pay.

Workers were due to strike from Friday for 10 days, but decided to put off the start date until today in a bid to resolve the issue.

Ryan Armstrong, Unite regional officer, said: "Today strike action was solid, and the support from the other Sellafield workers was absolutely amazing, it is a shame that Mitie refused to enter into meaningful dialogue with Unite after the olive branch was offered to avert the strike action, it just goes show this woeful company continued disregard for the most vulnerable and lowest paid workers on the Sellafield site."

The dispute, which involves laundry and environmental operatives, is a result of Unite’s 180 members rejecting Mitie’s pay offer, with workers receiving £8.45 an hour.

A spokesman for Mitie said: "GMB continues to be the only recognised union on our soft services contract at Sellafield. Unite is aware of this but continues to disregard the sole recognition agreement with GMB.

"Following recent pay negotiations with GMB, all staff working on the soft services contract at Sellafield received a 3 per cent pay increase in addition to the living wage uplift on 1 April 2019, plus further benefits relating to holiday pay and bank holiday pay rates. 85 per cent of GMB members voted in favour of this deal.

"We have arranged appropriate and adequate cover to ensure the normal continuation of services across the sites."

A Sellafield spokesman said: "Sellafield Ltd is not directly involved in the dispute, which does not involve any of our employees. However, we are taking steps to mitigate the impact of the industrial action, to ensure there are no implications on safety and security surrounding our operations at Sellafield

"As always, the safety and security of the Sellafield site, our workforce, and the local community is our priority during any industrial action."

Unite’s members voted by 98 per cent in favour of strike action on a 70 per cent turnout.

A second 10-day strike – beginning on May 4 until May 13 – remains scheduled to go ahead if there is no resolution to the dispute.