Angry workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment – are striking tomorrow (Thursday 23 March) in their long-running pensions’ dispute, with another seven days of strikes on the cards.
Unite, the country’s largest union which represents about 600 workers, is due to meet AWE management next week to discuss the progress of the ongoing pension talks.
Meanwhile, the workers, who are pivotal to delivering the Trident nuclear programme, will strike for 24 hours from 00.01 at AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire tomorrow (Thursday 23 March)
Further strikes are planned for 27 March; 6, 10, 20 and 24 April; and 4 and 8 May. This would bring the number of strike days since last November to 16.
The workers recently 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.
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 officer Bob Middleton said: “Our members will be striking
tomorrow to drive home the message that they feel betrayed and badly let down by what has happened to their pensions and that they don’t deserve to lose thousands of pounds when they retire.
“We are meeting the AWE management next week to discuss progress on the pension talks that we have been holding under the auspices of Acas, the conciliation service.
“However, until a settlement is reached that is acceptable to our hardworking members, the seven further days of strike action remain in place.
“The essence of this dispute is that governments should honour the pledges they make to MPs and groups of workers – ministerial promises are not something to be lightly discarded for the benefit of corporate profit.”
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.
Notes to editors:
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.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
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.