Pension proposals by workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment - to break the logjam in their long-running pensions’ dispute have been ignored, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 25 April).
The snub dished out to the workers has led to the announcement of two more 24 hour strikes on 10 and 18 May at AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield, starting at 00.01.
These strikes by more than 700 workers, who are pivotal to delivering the Trident nuclear programme, are on top of the already announced strikes on 4 and 8 May, bringing the number of strike days since last November to 18.
The 10 May strike will coincide with the regulatory ‘site exercise’ day when the AWE runs through, with the local councils, the scenario of a nuclear incident on site.
The dispute centres on copper-bottomed pledges made in the early 1990s by the then-Tory government to AWE workers regarding the future of their pensions, once they transferred to the private sector.
These promises have now been broken as AWE bosses closed the defined benefit pension scheme on 31 January this year, leaving employees facing thousands of pounds being slashed from their retirement incomes.
To assist in finding a solution, Unite came up with alternative proposals, prepared by pension experts, for a new defined benefit scheme – but these have, apparently, fallen on deaf ears.
Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “We have not received a response or even an acknowledgement to the pension proposals that we sent to the AWE management on 13 April.
“We put forward these proposals in good faith, but our members feel that they have now been snubbed.
“We have decided to strike on 10 May as AWE is planning to stage the regulatory ‘site exercise’ on this day.
“AWE has to hold an exercise, working in conjunction with the local authorities, practising how it would handle a nuclear accident at AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield. This exercise takes months of planning.
“It is for the AWE to say what contingencies it has in place to take account of the fact that our members, who would have been central to the successful completion of this exercise, will be on strike on 10 May.”
Notes to editors:
The workers renewed their industrial action mandate in a new ballot which saw 80 per cent vote to strike over the new defined contribution pension scheme being the only scheme they can join and also being denied readmission to the Ministry of Defence scheme.
Unite members, who work as managers, firefighters, and craft and manual workers, are furious at the broken promises made in the early 1990s, which were underpinned by a ministerial statement to the Commons. The union said that if those promises had been honoured it would not have resulted in the scheme’s closure on 31 January.
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. The union said that the consortium made a profit in 2015 of £57 million on total revenues of £978
AWE scheme members were paying 10 per cent of their salary into the defined benefit scheme and the employer paying 26 per cent. Under the AWE’s new defined contribution scheme, employees pay from three per cent to eight per cent or more; with AWE paying from nine per cent (if an employee pays three per cent) to 13 per cent (if an employee pays eight per cent or more).
For more information please contact: Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940. Unite press office: 020 3371 2065.
- 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.