UK - Flights systems manufacturer Goodrich is facing possible strike action as workers intend to protest against the closure of the final salary scheme. 

Unite, the trade union, has claimed 66% of the 1189 staff who voted in the ballot agreed to industrial action after the aerospace company decided to shut the UK scheme to new entrants on December 1 2007, and increased the contribution rates of existing staff by between 1.5%-3.5%.

The union claimed the decision to close the scheme was "outrageous" as, according to figures from March 2006, the fund was 90% funded with a deficit of £40m (€53.1m), while the company currently has an order book of contracts worth $7bn (€4.8bn).

Although no date has yet been set for the industrial action, Goodrich has been warned members "will not accept any changes" to the fund and is asking for the scheme to be reopened and for the company to reverse plans to increase member contributions.

It is claimed the company, which manufactures and supplies flight systems to all the major commercial and military aircraft builders, has taken a "part pensions holiday" for the past five years, so instead of paying the full employer contribution expected it has paid only half.

Unite has also suggested the company had been advised in 2005 to stop the "pensions holiday" and resume paying the full contributions which should have been increased to 16%.

Instead, the union claimed Goodrich ignored the advice and is now "forcing staff to foot a significant portion of the bill to fund the scheme".

Andy Taylor, Unite regional officer, said: "This is outrageous behaviour from an aerospace company which has a well funded pension scheme."

"Our members will not accept the company's decision to close the final salary pension scheme to new entrants and are calling for water tight assurances from Goodrich concerning the final salary scheme for existing members," he added.

A statement from Goodrich said it was "very disappointed" with the result of the ballot as it believes the pension arrangements it offers are "highly competitive".

Goodrich claimed it began "communicating with employees about the proposed changes to the UK pension arrangements in May of last year" and confirmed it remains "committed to offering a final salary scheme to its existing employees".

"The changes are needed for the company to remain competitive in the global business environment. The changes are a result of increasing costs of supporting the scheme and the volatility of financial markets which cause rapid changes in the scheme funding requirements," said the firm. 
Goodrich also confirmed talks with union officials will continue in an effort to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

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