The dispute centres on AWE’s plan to replace the defined benefit pension scheme with a defined contribution alternative that is worse than the DC scheme currently available to staff. This proposal is contrary to the government’s “copper-bottomed guarantee” of a no less favourable scheme when the contract for running AWE was put out to tender.
“Despite the ballot result, we had hoped that action might be avoided by the company bringing forward an improved offer,” said Prospect negotiator Richard Tabbner.
No improved offer
“Taking strike action is always a course of last resort for Prospect. Unfortunately the employer is not prepared to improve its current derisory offer, so we have been left with little choice but to go ahead with the actions mandated by our members.”
Both days of action will be coordinated with Unite members in AWE: November 14 will see a 24-hour strike beginning at 00:01am; this will be followed by action short of a strike on November 15.
Tabbner added: “Safety is always our paramount concern and it is important to emphasise that we will meet with the employer to ensure that minimum safety levels are maintained.”
Some 87% of members who took part in the ballot voted in favour of strike action, with 94% backing action short of a strike. Turnout was 68%.
Prospect is the main trade union representing employees at AWE, which makes the UK’s nuclear deterrent. It has consistently called for defence ministers to intervene, arguing that they have a shared responsibility given that the MoD owns AWE’s facilities, is AWE’s only customer and has direct involvement in the governance of pensions.
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