Angry workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment – will be taking their case for pensions’ justice to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Whitehall tomorrow (Tuesday 21 February).
The protestors will be ‘knocking on the front door’ of defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon in their bid to be taken back in the civil service pension scheme. The protest will be at the main gate of the MoD building, Whitehall, SW1A 2HB from 11.30 tomorrow.
The workers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, will be staging the protest, as their 600 colleagues at AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire hold a 24-hour strike tomorrow on the pensions’ issue.
The workers, who are pivotal to delivering the Trident nuclear programme, have met with a brick wall in their bid to have a dialogue with the defence secretary.
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, leaving employees facing thousands of pounds being slashed from their retirement incomes.
Unite regional secretary for the south east Jennie Formby said: “Our committed members feel betrayed and badly let down by what has happened to their pensions and they don’t deserve to lose thousands of pounds when they retire.
“There is a solution that could resolve this dispute and that is to allow the AWE workforce to join the principal civil service pension scheme.
“Our members want to have a constructive dialogue with Michael Fallon, but they have met with a brick wall which is insulting to such a dedicated workforce delivering the government’s flagship Trident nuclear programme.
“So on Tuesday, our members will be knocking on the proverbial front door at the MoD as they seek to secure a decent retirement income that they were promised by a Tory government a quarter of a century ago.”
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 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 million.
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
AWE scheme members were paying pay 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).
- 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.