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AWE staff ramp up pensions dispute

Eight-more days of strike action planned over pensions "betrayal"

John Herring

Reporter:

John Herring

Contact:

01635 886633

AWE workers to stage second 24-hour strike over pension row

WORKERS at Atomic Weapons Establishment sites in West Berkshire are to stage eight more days of strike action this spring as part of their on going pensions dispute. 

The workers, who are pivotal to delivering the Trident nuclear programme, will strike for 24 hours from 00.01 at AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield on 23 and 27 March; 6, 10, 20 and 24 April; and 4 and 8 May.

The latest wave of strikes will bring the number of days of industrial action since last November to 16.

Unite, the country’s largest union which represents about 600 workers, is due to meet AWE management for talks tomorrow (Thursday 9 March) under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas.

The workers have renewed their industrial action mandate in a new ballot which saw 80 per cent vote to strike over the new defined benefit pension scheme being the only scheme they can join and also being denied readmission to the Ministry of Defence scheme.

The dispute centres on pledges made in the early 1990s by the then Conservative government to AWE workers regarding the future of their pensions, once they transferred to the private sector.

The union says that these promises have now been broken as AWE bosses closed the defined benefit pension scheme on 31 January, leaving employees facing thousands of pounds being slashed.

Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “Our committed members feel betrayed and badly let down by what has happened to their pensions and they don’t deserve to lose thousands of pounds when they retire.

“The strength of feeling was overwhelmingly expressed in the second industrial action ballot and the announcement of eight more strike days this spring.

“We are talking to the employer under the auspices of Acas tomorrow (Thursday). There is a solution that could resolve this dispute and that is to allow the AWE workforce to join the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme.

“We believe that the continuing strike action is adversely impacting on the Trident nuclear programme, which should give the management extra impetus to resolve this dispute.

“The essence of this dispute is that governments should honour the pledges they make to MPs and groups of workers – ministerial promises are not something to be lightly discarded for the benefit of corporate profit.” 

The union said that if the pensions promises had been honoured it would not have resulted in the scheme’s closure on 31 January.

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.

The union said that the consortium made a profit in 2015 of £57 million on total revenues of £978 million.

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