Base’s Apache engineers could take strike action

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REPRESENTATIVES at a trade union group have confirmed that the Apache helicopter engineers at Wattisham Airfield will be balloted over industrial action.

Workers at the Suffolk base failed to reach a compromise at pay negotiation talks with company bosses on Monday.

Mark Robinson, Unite regional officer, confirmed that strike action could be on the cards after an ‘unacceptable offer was put forward’.

An offer made two weeks before was also rejected by workers – about 100 of whom are affected.

The engineers are employed by Morson Wynnwith, which is one of the subcontractors for helicopter company, AgustaWestland which has a support agreement with the MoD to manage and run the depth support unit at Wattisham Airfield.

Geoff Russell, communications manager at AgustaWestland, said: “As I understand it there is ongoing discussions between the company (Morson Wynnwith) and its employees and union representatives.”

The engineers carry out essential maintenance on the fleet of attack helicopters at the Wattisham base, where Prince Harry is training to become an Apache pilot. They undertake checks on the helicopters after 600 flying hours, inspect equipment and make any necessary repairs.

Part of the the Apache fleet is currently deployed in Libya, on board HMS Ocean, as part of Nato’s operation against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.

Mr Russell said the Apaches deployed in Libya would not be affected if engineers go ahead with the strike because services carry out the maintenance themselves.

He also confirmed that the airfield was currently operating as normal.

n Meanwhile, on Wednesday more than 250 Wattisham soldiers marched through Ipswich to honour the town and mark the return of the unit’s year-long operation in Afghanistan which started in January 2010.

The soldiers from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, who fly the Apache attack helicopters, also used the parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion.