Atomic strikers head to Whitehall

Striking workers at AWE, November 2016. Pic by @JennieUnite

Striking workers at AWE, November 2016. Pic by @JennieUnite
Striking workers at AWE, November 2016. Pic by @JennieUnite

Angry workers at AWE are today taking their case for pensions’ justice to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Whitehall.

The Unite members will be ‘knocking on the front door’ of defence secretary Sir Michael Fallonat 11.30am in their bid to be taken back in the civil service pension scheme.

The workers will stage the protest as their 600 colleagues at AWE’s two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire hold a 24-hour strike on the pensions’ issue.

The workers, who are pivotal to delivering the Trident nuclear programme, have met with a brick wall in their bid to have a dialogue with the defence secretary.

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

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 from their retirement incomes.

Unite regional secretary for the south east Jennie Formby 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.

“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.

“Our members want to have a constructive dialogue with Michael Fallon, but they have met with a brick wall which is insulting to such a dedicated workforce delivering the government’s flagship Trident nuclear programme.

“So today our members will be knocking on the proverbial front door at the MoD as they seek to secure a decent retirement income that they were promised by a Tory government a quarter of a century ago.”

Prospect members working at AWE last week voted by 59-41% to accept a deal that saw the employer contributing 11.5% rather than the 7% originally offered.

Prospect negotiator Richard Tabbner said: “Members secured significant improvements to the pensions proposals through their industrial action.

“This shows how important it is to respond to challenges in the workplace in a collective way and also how trade union members get a better deal on pensions and other terms and conditions.

“However, it is extremely disappointing that industrial action was needed to secure most of the improvements; the company should have offered the best possible terms in the first place.

“The result should not be interpreted as members being satisfied with the outcome. The closure of the defined benefit scheme broke clear promises that had been made to AWE employees in the past and members are rightly angry about that.

“The result simply shows that members felt the final proposals were the best that could be achieved at this stage.”

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