The initial proposals, outlined in a consultation at the end of January, included increasing the contributions payable by non-protected members of the final salary scheme, closing this scheme to those members in April 2017 and moving them into the company’s defined contribution scheme.
In pension terms there are three main categories of members in Urenco:
- a small number of members working at Capenhurst Nuclear Services, most of whom who have legal protections under the Energy Act 2004 and who are currently unaffected by the proposals;
- about 300 longer-serving staff without legal protections who are currently in the final salary scheme;
- about 350 people who started employment after 31 December 2007, when the final salary scheme was closed to new joiners. These members are currently in the defined contribution scheme.
Union officials and representatives have focused on achieving the best defined contribution pension scheme possible for all Urenco employees and achieving compensation for those who are to be taken out of the final salary scheme.
However they all reluctantly recognised that the numbers of members involved make it exceptionally difficult to defend the final salary scheme against closure.
The unions have recently run a consultative ballot. Prospect negotiator Steven Roberts said the results clearly indicate that members want the unions to continue discussions with the company in order to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues.
“Urenco should not lose sight of the strength of feeling among union members as the ballot also highlighted a willingness to take part in industrial action.
“We are looking to meet the company to discuss the consultative ballot in more detail and hold further meeting to discuss he results in more detail,” he added.
In discussions and correspondence with the company, unions said the proposals for the defined contribution scheme should:
- be available to all staff
- attract a company contribution 2.5 times what members pay in (subject to a maximum company contribution of 25%)
- allow for a cash payment or a lump sum pension contribution for those coming out of the final salary scheme
- apply across all business sites.
Through the consultation, unions persuaded the company improve the defined contribution scheme. The contributions structure in the company’s final offer is better than the existing structure and defined contribution members are likely to fare better as a result.
The company also accepted the principle of making compensation payments to those who leave the final salary scheme and agreed to remove the age barriers.
However, the unions’ outstanding concerns include:
- the company’s offer of compensation is not consistent across business sites, with employees at Stoke Poges being offered a higher level of compensation
- the unions do not believe that this is warranted or fair and are concerned that this may set the benchmark for the company’s approach to employee relations. They have conveyed their anger to the company, but it is standing by this approach.
Although the company has improved its offer, the defined contribution scheme’s contribution structure relies on a high level of member contribution to get the maximum company contribution.
While there may be scope to push the company for even higher contributions, the unions believe that more people should have access to these higher company contributions and the upper band should be made more affordable for members.