Workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment – will hold 12 more days of strike action, running into September, in their long-running pensions’ dispute, Unite, the country’s largest union, announced today (Thursday 15 June).
The AWE workforce produces the warheads for Trident submarines and the union said that since the dispute started last autumn it had caused ‘serious disruption’ to the Trident nuclear programme.
Unite held a new ballot of its more than 700 members and they voted by 93 per cent for strike action and by 95 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
The first of the 24 hour strikes at AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield will start at 00.01 on Thursday 29 June. This will be followed by strikes on 3, 13, 17, 27 and 31 July; 10, 14 and 24 August; and then 7, 11 and 21 September.
This will bring to 30 the number of strike days since last November. There will also be a continuous overtime ban from 00.01 on 29 June.
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.
Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “Our members have overwhelmingly renewed their mandate for strike action and their resolution has been further strengthened by figures that show the AWE consortium has chalked up £804 million in profits between 2000-2015.
“That’s more than £50 million a year, yet our efforts and proposals to resolve this pension dispute have been continually rebuffed by the hardline and intransigent management.
“We know that our members’ action has caused serious disruption to the production of the Trident warheads. We also know that convoys to Scotland carrying the missiles have been limited, although it is not possible to know the specifics because of the security clampdown.
“The Tories bang on about the importance of the Trident programme to the UK’s defence, yet they seem blithely unconcerned about the retirement incomes of the workers that are instrumental in the production programme.
“Our members want to belong to the defined benefit scheme that has been proposed by Unite, after much detailed work by the union’s pension advisors.”
Notes to editors:
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 million.
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.