Workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment - who staged a successful lobby of MPs today (Tuesday 6 December) over their pensions’ ‘betrayal’, have pledged to continue the fight into the new year, if necessary.
The lobby coincided with a second 24-hour strike today by members of Unite, the country’s largest union, in the dispute over the threat to close the defined benefit pension scheme and substitute it with an inferior alternative.
Unite regional secretary for the south east Jennie Formby said: “Unite members held an extremely successful lobby of Parliament where the point was made time and again that the government must not renege on its ‘copper bottomed’ promise to protect the pensions of these crucial defence workers.
“Once again, there was the solid support from Unite members at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, following the first 24-hour strike on 14 November.
“Our members were buoyed up to keep fighting by the declaration of full support from Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, including a commitment to double strike pay.
“Our members won’t be starved into submission by a hardline management - and the prospect of further strikes is very much on the cards when we enter 2017.”
Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “Unite is sending out a clear message to employers across the land: ‘Don’t mess with workers’ pensions’ – otherwise you will have a fight on your hands. Pensions have been built up by employees over many years for their retirement – unscrupulous bosses can’t be allowed to dip their fingers into people’s pension pots.
“The AWE dispute has been given extra edge by the broken promises made in the early 1990s by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to protect AWE pensions once the workforce had been transferred to the private sector. These pledges were underpinned by a ministerial statement to the Commons.
“Now is the time for the management to acknowledge these promises made to MPs by a minister of the Crown and negotiate in a constructive fashion to resolve this dispute.”
Unite members have voted by 92 per cent for strike action and by 97 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
Currently, AWE scheme members pay 10 per cent of their salary into the scheme and the employer pays 26 per cent. Under the AWE’s new proposals, employees will be able to pay from three per cent to nine per cent; with AWE paying from seven per cent (if an employee pays three per cent) to 13 per cent (if an employee pays nine per cent or more).
AWE plc, which employs about 4,000 people, is a consortium of two American-owned companies Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering, and UK-listed Serco.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact: Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 07967 665869
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.