Workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment – are full of confidence as they gear up for their second 48-hour strike this month in their pensions’ dispute on Monday (30 January), Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Friday 27 January).
Six hundred employees, members of Unite, will strike at AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire for 48 hours on Monday 30 January, starting at 00.01. Picket lines at both sites will be in place from 06.30 on both days.
The dispute centres on iron-clad promises 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 the AWE bosses want to slash the retirement incomes by jettisoning the current defined benefit pension scheme from Tuesday (31 January).
Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “The previous 48-hour strike action earlier this month was, in my view, very effective and we have the full support of Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey who visited the picket lines.
“Confidence is high that we can win this dispute and see justice done.
“We need to maintain the pressure on the Ministry of Defence (MoD), so our members are given the opportunity to rejoin the MoD’s principle civil service pension scheme.
“Once again, we call upon defence secretary Michael Fallon to honour those pension pledges made 25 years ago.”
Earlier this week, the Prospect union had a meeting on the pensions’ issue with the junior defence minister Harriett Baldwin – however, Unite did not attend.
Bob Middleton explained: “The reason we did not attend this meeting with defence minister Harriett Baldwin is that we have different goals.
“We want the pension scheme taken back by the Ministry of Defence; the minister views the dispute as between AWE management and the unions, while we see the government as being central to this dispute and its resolution; and finally, we want a meeting with the defence secretary Michael Fallon, not a junior minister.
“Until the MoD recognises the legitimate concerns of our members and enters into a genuine and constructive dialogue, the industrial dispute will continue, as demonstrated by the two-day strike set for Monday.”
AWE bosses plan to close the defined benefit scheme on Tuesday and replace it with a defined contribution one, which would rely on the vagaries of the stock exchange and where the final retirement income is not guaranteed.
The union said that its members want to be taken back into the MoD pension scheme.
Unite members, who work as managers, 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 plans to close the scheme on 31 January.
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 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).
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 senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
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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.