UK - Workers at the UK's Atomic Weapon Establishment intend to ballot for strike action if the Ministry of Defence does not negotiate over planned changes to the final salary pension scheme.
Workers for the company, which manufactures and maintains nuclear warheads including the UK's Trident programme, currently contribute 1.5% to the scheme however it is proposed employee contributions will increase 6% to 7.5% from June to help reduce the scheme's deficit.
This would not normally be an issue as members would still benefit from a final salary scheme, however in this case the trade unions representing the workers - Prospect and Unite - said when the decision was made to make AWE a government-owned company run by a third-party contractor, a guarantee was put in place that meant any increase in employee contributions would be matched by an increase in salary.
Bob King, negotiations officer at Prospect, said as the contractor would not be able to afford these salary increases Kenneth Carlisle, the then Conservative government defence minister, confirmed the MoD would fund the salary increases.
However, since the changes to the pension scheme were first proposed the MoD has avoided discussions on the issue for over a year," said King.
"We are on pretty firm ground as the statement is in Hansard, and it was written into the contracts. It seems the MoD is finding it difficult to deny this, which could be why they've avoided discussions."
King said the unions agree there is a deficit in the scheme which needs to be funded, but revealed members of the scheme have had their salary increases purposely held back to help fund the deficit because their contributions were so low.
"We've already given them a bit more leeway, so this is like a slap in the face. We agree the scheme needs more capital but it's up to the MoD to fund this. A guarantee is a guarantee. We are happy to have a sensible and pragmatic conversation about the options available," said King.
Members of the scheme have already voted unanimously at two meetings to ballot for strike action if a resolution cannot be found, leading the MoD to agree to talks at the end of the month.
King added: "At the end of the day, we want a conversation and first-hand information to enable us to make a decision. The implementation date is June so if the MoD stick to these changes we will need to organise the industrial action before then as it will be much harder to change this once its gone through."
The MoD and AWE were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
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