Engineers vote for strike action

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ENGINEERS responsible for Wattisham’s Apache helicopters have voted in favour of industrial action after months of pay disputes.

The engineers, based at Wattisham Airfield – where Prince Harry is currently based – gave an ‘overwhelming’ response in favour of strike plans with 71 for and 14 against.

Mark Robinson, regional officer at Unite, which represents more than 100 of the 150 engineers at Wattisham, said they were in dispute over pay issues that saw workers £3,000 worse off than counterparts in Hampshire.

He said that despite the ballot result, announced on Monday, a decision has still not been reached on whether to strike or not.

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

Unite representatives have been in negotiations with Morson Wynnwith since last year about pay. The company agreed to ensure that the engineers’ salaries at the Suffolk base more closely aligned with Hampshire over the next three years.

But Mr Robinson said that due to changes within the company and market reasons, the company was ‘no longer able to honour that’.

“Our members are disappointed and concerned about that,” he said. “None of the offers made have been acceptable.”

On Tuesday, Morson Wynnwith held talks with the engineers at Wattisham Airfield.

Part of the Apache fleet is currently deployed in the Mediterranean as part of Nato’s operation against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.

The engineers carry out checks on the Apaches, inspect equipment and make repairs.

Mr Robinson said: “We hope that we can get an offer from the company and avoid having to take any action.”