STAFF at the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down are voting on whether to take strike action over pay.

Members of the Prospect union working at Dstl, which is headquartered at Porton Down, are balloting on industrial action after what the union describes as a "derisory" two per cent pay increase was imposed.

The union says staff are paid "significantly less" than counterparts in the Ministry of Defence (MOD), and "the award does nothing to close this damaging gap".

The ballot opened on Friday (November 12) and will close on December 2 with union members across its sites at Porton Down, Portsdown West in Fareham, Hampshire, and Fort Halstead in Sevenoaks, Kent, casting their vote.

Prospect says its members do vital work for national security and were central to the response to the Salisbury poisonings, as well as playing a vital role in the Covid pandemic.

Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said: “Experts at Dstl have been taken for granted for too long. They love their jobs but if management doesn’t step up and start paying a rate commensurate to workers’ expertise and the importance of their work, they will have no choice but to take industrial action.

“Prospect members at Dstl play a vital role in maintaining national security. Morale is at an all-time low and if something doesn’t change they will start to look at opportunities elsewhere.

"This is not expertise that can easily be replaced – losing it could constitute a threat to the future security of our nation. Government and Dstl need to start recognising the huge contribution of the experts it employs and start rewarding them accordingly.”

Prospect says if the decision is to go ahead with strike action it will be the first time, excluding civil service-wide action, that this has ever happened in Dstl.

MP Chris Evans, shadow defence procurement minister, added: “Staff at Dstl do highly skilled work that is vital to our national security. The government and Dstl needs to recognise this vital work and reach a settlement that reflects the service they give keeping this country safe.”

An MOD spokesperson said: “We are aware of the balloting on industrial action taking place at Dstl among members of the trade union Prospect.

“Our Dstl employees are highly skilled and carry out specialist work critical to national security. We value all our staff and work hard to ensure they receive salaries and benefits befitting of their contribution.”

Once the ballot closes next month the branch of the Prospect union will decide the next steps to take and whether strike action will be taken.

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