A strike at the Sellafield plant in Cumbria could put the recovery of the nuclear industry at risk, according to plant bosses.
Sellafield workers are unhappy at new shift patterns
Workers at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant will take selective strike
action within the next two weeks over a pay dispute.
It is the first planned strike at the British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) plant in more than 30 years.
Union representatives are met to discuss the situation after workers voted for strike action on Monday.
Members of the GMB and Amicus unions claimed they were promised that a wage gap of £2,000 between industrial workers and staff would be closed by next April.
Unions have accused the company of reneging on the agreement.
But BNFL said the action is "both unhelpful and undesirable."
A spokesman said: "The decisions by the Sellafield trade unions to reject the nationally agreed offer and to take industrial action will undermine the excellent work done by the entire workforce since 1999 to recover the reputation of the site and put that whole recovery at risk.
"In each of the last two financial years, despite significantly improved performance at Sellafield, the company has posted some very big losses.
"In addition, since 1999 we have recruited over 1,500 people at Sellafield to address gaps in manning levels and capability which has added approximately £100m to Sellafield's cost base."
Brian Strutton, the GMB's national secretary for energy said: "The company made the commitment to end the discrimination against blue collar workers in 1999, which means they've had four years to sort this out.
"The workers are feeling let down that their employer has reneged on the agreement and aren't willing to wait any longer.
"We have offered further negotiations but this has met with a refusal from BNFL.
"Therefore, we have no alternative but to organise for industrial action
and we are meeting with shop stewards to discuss the next steps."
A spokesman for Amicus said: "BNFL must honour
the commitment it gave to industrial shift workers and increase their shift pay to £8,750 by April 2004."
The plant, which used to be called Windscale, was opened in 1947 and is responsible for reprocessing spent fuels from UK nuclear power stations.
The site employs about 10,000 workers, although only a quarter are involved in the dispute.
The BNFL spokesman stressed that safety would not be compromised because sufficient staffing levels would be maintained regardless of any action.