Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Beith is a Ministry of Defence (MoD) body which handles military supplies, equipment and weapons.

Both the UK and Scottish Governments support Ukraine as it battles to protect their country’s territorial integrity and freedom in the face of Russian aggression. MoD Beith is under Westminster control and the facility is vital to ensuring the uninterrupted supply of equipment to the Ukrainian frontline.

Unfortunately, a dispute has broken out over DE&S’ refusal to pay retention payments to non-craft workers which are being paid to all other employees.

Such a situation is clearly unjust and risks creating a two-tier workforce.

Whilst additional payments are made to managers and craft workers who assemble munitions, non-craft colleagues who prepare arms for shipment are earning less than £21,000 a year, having seen their relative pay eroded as they are excluded from such bonuses. As a result, the pay gap between craft and non-craft workers has tripled.

The GMB has tried to negotiate fair retention payments since last year to no avail.  In frustration, members were balloted, and industrial action was backed by 93 per cent.

Strike action in circumstances such as the ongoing Ukraine conflict are not undertaken lightly. However, Ukrainian MPs and trade unions have given their full support, realising the need for Beith’s non-craft workers to support their families.

Following the prospect of breakthrough talks offered to the GMB in August, strikes were suspended but these broke down when union leaders reported that, whilst they had hopes of a positive resolution to the dispute, the MoD appeared not to be acting in “good faith.”

The UK Government must engage constructively with the GMB to end this dispute as a matter of urgency.

As industrial action continues, I joined the workers to offer my full support.

GMB members rallied outside the DE&S plant where I addressed the striking workers, calling for a speedy resolution to the dispute, after urging the new Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps MP to intervene. Such appeals to his predecessor Ben Wallace MP were ignored. Mr Shapps must make a fresh start, listen and resolve this dispute.

I also raised the matter on the floor of the House of Commons and tabled a Westminster Early Day Motion.

Safety fears during strike action have become concerning following reports of an accident involving a forklift truck after military personnel were drafted in to break the strike. 

Workers have years of experience transporting sensitive material around the site. It clearly makes much more sense for management to engage with their own employees constructively, rather than rely on inexperienced personnel.

Workers should not have to fight for fairness and equal treatment at work.  It should be theirs by right and if employment law was devolved to Scotland, workers would have better protections against poor treatment which would act as a beacon across for all UK workers.

I will continue to pursue a resolution to this ongoing dispute to secure a positive outcome for DE&S’ workers as soon as possible.