The Conservatives’ campaign in Copeland, the byelection described as “Theresa May’s to lose”, has received a big boost after the largest trade union representing workers at the Sellafield nuclear power station said it would not strike before voters go to the polls next week.
The Conservatives’ plans to fight the election – triggered by the resignation of Labour MP Jamie Reed – on a pro-nuclear platform were thrown into jeopardy in December, when union leaders said “serious industrial unrest” by the 10,000 workers could not be ruled out amid a dispute over government plans to downgrade the final-salary pension scheme for employees of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which runs Sellafield.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said last month the plans were “daylight robbery” and admitted that he was “not optimistic” that strike action could be avoided. But after a series of productive talks with ministers, Prospect, the union which represents more than 5,000 Sellafield workers and a majority of all workers on site, has said it will not take industrial action before voters go to the polls in the West Cumbrian constituency on 23 February.
The news will come as a major blow to Labour, whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been repeatedly attacked by Conservative campaigners over his ambiguous stance on the nuclear industry, which supports tens of thousands of jobs locally. Activists had hoped the prospect of the government downgrading…