Water supplies in the north east of England face possible disruption with call-outs for leaks delayed as workers start industrial action at Northumbrian Water Group today (Tuesday 20 October) at the prospect of losing their final salary pension scheme.
Unite, the country’s largest union, starkly contrasts its members potentially losing thousands of pounds a year in retirement income, with the vast wealth of the company’s ultimate owner, Hong Kong magnate Li Ka-Shing ranked as the world’s 17th richest person by Forbes and worth an estimated $25.4 billion.
Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said: “When Li Ka-Shing took over Northumbrian Water in 2011, there was a pledge that all existing commitments would be honoured.
“Sadly, this promise has been broken as the company now wants to introduce a career average scheme from 1 January which may mean our members facing pensioner poverty, as they could lose tens of thousands of pounds in their retirement years.
“In the last two financial years, the company has paid out a total of £400 million to shareholders, so the management could well afford to maintain the final salary pension scheme; instead they have chosen the road of shareholder profits trumping pension provision for a dedicated workforce.
“The irony of the ‘rich as Croesus’ Li Ka-Shing has not been lost on our members.”
A continuous work-to-rule, call out ban and ban on overtime starts across all the company’s sites involving around 100 members from Unite and members of the GMB union today.
This will be followed up a 24-hour strike starting at 08.00 on Monday (26 October) involving around 44 Unite members at the Tees Dock Road site, Middlesbrough TS6 6UE and the sewage treatment works at Northumberland Dock Road, Wallsend NE28 0QD.
Pat McCourt added: “The 2.7 million customers of Northumbrian Water could face disruption to water supplies when schoolchildren are at home for half-term next week due to the strike action. The work-to-rule and overtime ban could mean delays to repairs of leaks and burst pipes in the weeks ahead.
“The main reason the company gave for discarding the final salary scheme was the lame one that all the other water companies were doing it – this is a pathetic excuse given this is a highly profitable company owned by one of the world’s richest men.
“The proposal to get rid of the final salary scheme should be shelved, otherwise a winter of industrial action is very much on the cards.”
The workers had voted by 61 per cent in favour of strike action and by 80 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
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.