TALKS over pay are due to take place after staff at Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) were balloted on strike action.

This comes after the ballot missed clearing the 50 per cent legal turnout threshold required for industrial action.

Members of the Prospect union working at Dstl, which is headquartered at Porton Down, were balloted after what the union described as a “derisory” two per cent pay increase was imposed.

The union previously said that 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 closed earlier this month with union members across its sites at Porton Down, Portsdown West in Fareham, Hampshire, and Fort Halstead in Sevenoaks, Kent, balloted.

A Prospect spokesperson said: "Whilst the Dstl industrial action ballot narrowly missed clearing the 50 per cent legal turnout threshold required for action, Dstl management have proposed and agreed for talks on pay through ACAS. Prospect will be working with Dstl management to achieve the best possible outcome for our members."

If strike action had been taken, the union said, it would have been the first time, excluding civil service-wide action, that this has happened in Dstl.

Ballots have to achieve at least a 50 per cent turnout of eligible union members, with a majority voting in favour of strike action.

In a previous statement issued when the ballot was announced, Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said: “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.”

A MOD spokesperson said: “We are aware of the outcome of balloting on industrial action which took 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 will continue to work with them and the Unions on any future pay strategy.”

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