Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey will tell striking workers at AWE plc - the Atomic Weapons Establishment – tomorrow (Thursday 19 January) that defence secretary Michael Fallon needs to honour promises on pensions made a quarter of a century ago.
Six hundred employees, members of Unite, the UK’s largest union, are striking at the AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire for 48 hours, which started at 00.01 today (Wednesday 18 January) and again for 48 hours on Monday 30 January, also starting at 00.01.
Len McCluskey is due to meet workers on the picket line at the West Gate Aldermaston RG7 4PR between 09.00-10.00 tomorrow (Thursday 19 January) to show the solidarity of the UK’s biggest union in the ‘broken promises’ pensions’ dispute that stems from AWE workers being transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the private sector.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey will tell AWE members: “In the early 1990s, the then-Tory government made iron-clad promises to AWE workers regarding the future of their pensions, once they transferred to the private sector.
“These promises have now been broken as the AWE bosses want to slash the retirement incomes by jettisoning the current defined benefit pension scheme. Our members could lose thousands of pounds when they retire, which is a disgrace.
“It is clear that this pledge has been broken and our members feel deeply betrayed. They have Unite’s 100 per cent support and solidarity in this dispute.
“And we call upon defence secretary Michael Fallon to honour those pension pledges made 25 years ago.”
After the visit to Aldermaston, the general secretary will visit striking BA ‘mixed fleet’ cabin crew at their picket line which will be based at Nene Road, Hounslow TW6 2LA, arriving at approximately 11.00. The cabin crew are striking over ‘poverty wages’.
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 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.
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.