UK

Shapps should help end dispute at depot that supplies arms to Ukraine, says SNP

Grant Shapps has been urged to help end the strikes at munitions plant (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Grant Shapps has been urged to help end the strikes at munitions plant (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Defence Secretary has been urged to intervene in strikes taking place at a Scottish munitions depot after it was suggested missiles held there could help Ukraine win the war.

In a letter to Grant Shapps, the SNP called for him to resolve an ongoing dispute at DM Beith, North Ayrshire, which has led to a series of ongoing strikes.

It comes as another two-week walkout begins in the row over pay.

DM Beith’s non-craft workers, who move munitions and supplies around the site and load them for shipment, are striking for better pay.

Martin Docherty-Hughes
Martin Docherty-Hughes has written to the Defence Secretary (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

In the letter, sent on Monday, the SNP’s defence spokesperson at Westminster, Martin Docherty-Hughes, accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of failing to engage with workers to end the pay dispute.

The striking workers are represented by trade union GMB Scotland.

Andy Start, chief executive of Defence Equipment and Support (DEaS), part of the MoD, said he is unable to speak with GMB Scotland until next month in Bristol.

However, Mr Docherty-Hughes urged the defence secretary to intervene and ensure representatives travel to Beith to meet workers.

He said management had shown a “lack of urgency and a callous attitude” towards striking workers who had previously postponed strike action to allow for talks on better pay.

No increased offer was made, and Mr Docherty-Hughes says the workers deserve recognition, respect and a better wage.

He added: “Travelling to Beith would be an important gesture to rebuild trust.

“I am writing to ask you to bring some urgency to the resolution of this dispute and encourage the DEaS chief executive to travel to North Ayrshire ahead of this scheduled meeting in a month’s time.”

The striking non-craft workers at Beith, who have won cross-party support of Ayrshire MPs and MSPs at Holyrood, provide logistical support to the craft workers, who assemble the weapons.

GMB previously warned of a widening gap between the non-craft and craft workers’ pay and bonuses.

Speaking during the Conservative Party conference on Monday, Mr Shapps said: “With weapons like Storm Shadow, everywhere in Russian-occupied Ukraine is on the front line.

“The war is consuming weapons, ammunition and, yes, people at an appalling rate.

“If Ukrainians are to prevail against the evil assault on their homeland, we must remain steadfast.”

Chris Kennedy, GMB organiser, said Mr Shapps’ acknowledgement of such weapons and their importance underlines why he must help resolve the DM Beith dispute.

He said: “The importance of our members’ work is not in dispute and the Defence Secretary is only the latest to emphasise their crucial role supplying our own armed forces and Ukraine’s.

“It is beyond time for a fair offer to be made and this dispute to be resolved.

“We are ready to talk today, we were ready to talk yesterday and we would be ready to talk tomorrow but we cannot talk to ourselves.

“The decision-takers, the people who can actually resolve this dispute, should be in Scotland now. The disregard and disrespect shown to such important workers has gone on long enough.

“Before Grant Shapps leaves Manchester he should be phoning DEaS and telling its management to get back around the table because that is the only place this dispute can end.”

The MoD was contacted for comment.