About 1,200 Magnox workers, decommissioning the UK’s nuclear plants, are being ensnared in a Catch-22 pension ‘trap’, which could see them losing thousands of pounds in retirement income.
Unite, the country’s largest union, is calling on MPs to delete the controversial clause in the Enterprise bill, due to have its second reading in the Commons tomorrow (Tuesday 2 February).
The Catch-22 situation stems from the 2005 Energy Act which protected pension provision under the privatisation legislation, but the Enterprise bill now has a clause that caps redundancy payments at £95,000, apparently aimed at top executives leaving the public sector.
Unite is highlighting Magnox as a key example, but points out that the Enterprise bill will also affect about 30,000 people working throughout the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) estate who will also be affected by the £95,000 exit cap.
In a letter to MPs, Unite national officer for energy Kevin Coyne said: “Its unintended consequence, however, is that it materially affects ordinary operatives in the nuclear decommissioning industry, not because of large exit payments, but because pension benefits are adjusted in the event of redundancy.
“The consequences flowing from the bill would be directly contrary to the intentions of parliament in previous pension protection legislation under the energy privatisation legislation 2005.
“It would also contravene collective agreements and the individual contracts of employment of the Magnox workforce concerned.”
Unite said that those affected are not ‘fat cats’, but electricians, maintenance fitters and nuclear technicians who have served the nuclear industry for many years by providing the nation’s energy, and ensuring the safe disposal of nuclear waste and decommissioning of plants.
Kevin Coyne added: “No one is sure how this company which was privatised in 2005 and had to change its pension scheme to conform to the privatisation legislation now finds its pensions coming, once more, under the public sector, without any reference to parliament.
“Our members could be caught in a Catch-22 pension ‘trap’, which they don’t deserve. That’s why we are asking for this pernicious clause to be deleted from the bill when the MPs consider it.”
Magnox is the management and operations contractor responsible for 12 nuclear sites in the UK, such as Bradwell and Dungeness, working for the sites’ owner, the NDA.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 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.