Workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment – will stage two 48-hour strikes, starting next week, in the long-running ‘broken promises’ pensions’ row.
Six hundred employees, members of Unite, the UK’s largest union, will be striking at the AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire for 48 hours from 00.01 on Wednesday 18 January and again for 48 hours on Monday 30 January, also staring at 00.01.
Unite members feel ‘deeply betrayed’ as promises made a quarter of a century ago guaranteeing their pensions, when they were transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the private sector, have been broken.
The AWE bosses plan to close the defined benefit scheme on 31 January 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.
Unite said that its members want to be taken back into the MoD pension scheme.
Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “It was in the House of Commons in the early 1990s that the then-Tory government made copper bottomed promises to AWE workers regarding the future of their pensions, once they transferred to the private sector.
“It is quite clear that this pledge has been shattered and our members feel deeply betrayed. The hallmark of this dispute is a litany of broken promises.
“The most just course of action would be for the pension scheme to be taken back by the MoD.
“The four days of strike action later this month are not being taken lightly. It is not a ‘political’ strike, but one taken reluctantly by our members who have no desire to see thousands of pounds wiped off their retirement incomes.”
Unite members, who work as managers, and craft and manual workers, are furious at broken promises made by the MoD 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 at the end of this month.
Unite members have voted by 92 per cent for strike action and by 97 per cent for industrial action short of a strike. They have already held two days of strike action on 14 November and 6 December 2016.
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
- 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.