Socialist Worker

Defence Support Group workers demand more strikes after Unite union suspends walkout

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2437

DSG workers in Donnington, Shropshire, on strike last December

DSG workers in Donnington, Shropshire, on strike last December (Pic: Martin James)

The Unite union has suspended a planned strike by Defence Support Group (DSG) workers because of the prospect of a new offer. 

Around 800 workers were set to strike from Monday of next week as part of their battle for an 8 percent pay rise.

But Unite has given bosses seven days to make good on an offer of a one-off £1,250 bonus.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) bosses are under pressure to settle the dispute ahead of DSG’s planned sale to private company Babcock on 1 April.

But bosses have also said that workers who’ve struck for more than 21 days will get a smaller bonus and less leave than scabs.

Workers reacted angrily to the strike’s suspension at a mass meeting in Donnington, Shropshire. 

Shop steward Ollie Jones told Socialist Worker, “People don’t trust the bosses, and they say this isn’t the consolidated pay rise we were in it for.

“If management comes back with this offer, there needs to be a big rejection of it.”

Workers voted and indicated that they were prepared to take further action.

To win more, it’s essential for DSG workers to restart the strikes and rebuild the momentum that was lost in the long gap since the end of the last walkout on 19 December.


Members of the PCS union at DSG have now also voted to strike and could join a new walkout.

Unite’s national leadership must keep up full political and financial support for the workers. 

The whole trade union movement needs to get behind them. 

The MoD insists the workers won’t break the Tories’ 1 percent public sector pay freeze. 

Yet civilian police staff were told the same thing. But after threatening to strike, the government offered them a 2.2 percent pay rise. 

Babcock is already trying to intimidate workers and pit them against each other.

Its consultation document on DSG’s future says that hundreds of jobs depend on it getting the right contracts.

This could mean some sites losing work, while others are given more.

Rod Thompson, Unite convenor at DSG Bovington in Dorset, was suspended in a bosses’ attack on the right to picket during last year’s strikes. 

He told Socialist Worker, “It’s a very slippery document, but Babcock have shown their hand.

“Nothing in it is guaranteed, and the excuses are ready. Within a few years we’ll be looking at a DSG that’s a shadow of its former self, with a smaller, less skilled and lower paid workforce.”

Bosses want workers who will accept low pay, allowing them to drive down costs and win contracts.They’re hoping workers will avoid militancy to dodge the sack.

But the best protection for workers is to fight together.

Ollie said, “The window we’re in now means we’ve got even more leverage. Babcock want a smooth transition. But we’re showing them we aren’t a workforce that will roll over.”

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