Ninety-two per cent of Unite members at the Atomic Weapons Establishment voted for walkouts
Hundreds of workers who maintain Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent are set for a two 48-hour strikes later this month over the future of their pensions.
Six hundred Unite members at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) will stage walkouts on January 18 and 30 over changes which could cost them thousands in retirement income.
Ninety-two percent of members at AWE sites in Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire including managers and craft and manual workers voted in favour of strike action.
The union said workers feel ‘deeply betrayed’ over broken promises made a quarter of a century ago when their pensions were moved into the private sector.
Right now, workers with a defined benefit scheme pay ten per cent of their salary into the pension scheme and AWE pays in 26 per cent.
But new plans would close this scheme on January 31 and replace it with a defined contributions scheme, where workers can pay from three to eight per cent more, while AWE would pay from nine (if the worker pays three) to 13 (if they pay eight or more).
This would mean a final retirement income is not guaranteed.
Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said:
“It was in the House of Commons in the early 1990s that the then-Tory government made copper-bottomed promises to AWE workers regarding the future of their pensions, once they transferred to the private sector.
It is quite clear that this pledge has been shattered and our members feel deeply betrayed. The hallmark of this dispute is a litany of broken promises.”
He said a just result would be the Ministry of Defence taking back control of the pension scheme, adding:
“The four days of strike action later this month are not being taken lightly. It is not a ‘political’ strike, but one taken reluctantly by our members who have no desire to see thousands of pounds wiped off their retirement incomes.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said changes to the AWE pension scheme were up to the employer, adding ‘safety and security’ would not be compromised during any strike action.
AWE is a consortium made up of two American companies, Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering, and UK-listed firm Serco.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.