About 440 workers at Ardagh Glass in Barnsley are being balloted for strike action over unilateral changes to their pension scheme that could see them face ‘pensioner poverty’ with the loss of thousands of pounds to their retirement income.
The workers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, will vote from Tuesday 21 July on whether they wish to strike and/or take industrial action short of a strike over the management’s plans to close the defined benefits scheme (DBS) and replace it with a defined contributions (DC) plan from 1 October. The ballot closes on Tuesday 18 August.
Unite deputy regional secretary Tas Sangha said that the DC scheme would be ‘vastly inferior’ to the current DBS and predicted ‘pensioner poverty’ for the employees when they retire.
The glass manufacturer wants to change the DBS which currently sees the company contribute 25.9 per cent and the individual worker three, six or nine per cent, depending on circumstances. There are 492 members in the scheme.
Despite the changes being overwhelmingly rejected in two consultative ballots by the employees, the management wants unilaterally to auto-enrol employees from 1 October. Then workers will pay in four per cent of their salaries which will be matched by the company.
Tas Sangha said: “If these proposals are allowed to go ahead it will mean that this highly profitable company will save £3m a year, which is money being directly picked from our members’ pockets.
“The company has already admitted that the contribution rate may be as high as 60 per cent to the DC scheme if you wanted to get the same benefits as those now offered by the DBS.
“There is no way that our members can bridge this yawning financial chasm to give them a decent retirement income – and hence the strike ballot. We urge the management to reverse its decision and maintain the DBS.”
Tas Sangha said that the scheme’s deficit at its last validation in April 2014 was £11.9 million and that was ‘perfectly sustainable’.
Ardagh Glass employs about 1,400 workers at sites in Barnsley, Doncaster and Knottingley in Yorkshire and at Irvine in Ayrshire – the three other sites are covered by a different scheme and are not being balloted for industrial action. The company made £ 54.6 million in gross profit for the year ending 2013.
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.