Union launches strike ballot at MoD arm’s-length body

Staff at Defence Equipment and Support urged to walk out over imposed 3.25% pay deal
DE&S headquarters at Abbey Wood Photo: Adrian Pingstone/Wikipedia

By Jonathan Owen

16 Feb 2024

Civil service union Prospect has launched a strike ballot for members at Defence Equipment and Support in a dispute over pay at the Ministry of Defence arm’s-length body.

Prospect said DE&S had refused to meet its pay claim of 5.5% and imposed an “unagreed pay offer” for 2023-24 that amounts to a rise of 3.25% or less for the majority of staff.

A spokesperson for DE&S said the agency was "disappointed" at the announcement and that DE&S employees have received an average pay increase of 5.1% for 2023-24, with some staff receiving a bump of up to 14.63%.

Prospect is calling on its members to vote in favour of both strike action and action short of strike. The last time its members at DE&S took industrial action was more than a decade ago, during a pensions dispute in 2011.

DE&S is responsible for managing MoD procurement across the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, and for support programmes for the UK’s armed forces. It employs 12,500 civil servants and military personnel. Its headquarters are at the MoD’s Abbey Wood complex in Bristol.

Prospect has around 800 members at DE&S, ranging from engineers who test military aircraft for airworthiness to those providing expert support to ensure the safe operation of warships, aircraft carriers and armoured vehicles.

Union general secretary Mike Clancy said industrial action was always a last resort and urged DE&S to “come back to the table and make a better offer”.

“Our members at DE&S are committed experts dedicated to keeping our country safe in an increasingly dangerous world,” he said. “Yet instead of recognising their invaluable work, their employer is attempting to impose another significant cut in pay, with an offer below that negotiated elsewhere in the public sector, and far below their private sector counterparts.”

The ballot of workers at DE&S comes just weeks after Prospect members at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the MoD, went on a 24-hour strike in a dispute over a non-negotiable pay offer.

The DE&S ballot opened today and closes on 1 March.

A DE&S spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that Prospect have taken the decision to hold an industrial action ballot over the 2023/24 pay offer, which was implemented last September after negotiations with our recognised trades unions.

“More than half of DE&S employees received base pay increases of at least 3.25% – the figure quoted by Prospect –  with some of our lowest paid employees receiving as much as 14.63% in uplifts. The overall average base pay increase across all employees in 2023/24 was 5.1%.”

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