Union ballots for strike action in nuclear industry pension dispute

Aerial view of Sellafield
Aerial view of Sellafield
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 3:22PM

MORE than 3,000 nuclear workers in Cumbria will ballot for strike action over proposals to curtail their pension benefits.

The GMB union is to ballot its members over the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s plans to make savings of £660m.

The decision comes following a meeting, held in London on Monday, between union leaders representing thousands of nuclear workers.

The other unions involved - Prospect, Unite and ASLEF/TSSA - are stopping short of a strike ballot at present but may follow the GMB's lead if the NDA does not back down.

Nationally, 11,000 workers at 19 sites are affected by the proposals including, in Cumbria, employees at Sellafield, Direct Rail Services in Carlisle, the Low Level Waste Repository at Drigg, and International Nuclear Services at Westlakes Science Park.

The NDA has launched a consultation on the proposed chnages, which closes on March 10.

It aims to implement the changes by April 2018.

The GMB’s strike committee will draw up the timetable for the ballot with the first strike day expected in February or March.

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary for the nuclear sector, said: “There is no justification for this attack on the pensions of these nuclear workers and their communities.

“These pension funds are in a sound state and underwent considerable reform 10 years ago.

"What the Government are saying is that the privatised site license companies who run these nuclear facilities are in fact public sector organisations and therefore Sellafield, Dounreay and the Magnox Sites should go through the same reforms as the rest of the public sector itself.

"This is a point blank betrayal of the promises made by Margaret Thatcher to nuclear communities when the electricity industry was privatised in the 1990s and the pension being proposed would make it by far the worst across the public sector."

After Monday's meeting, the representatives of the four unions involved released a joint statement in which they challenged the NDA’s justification for launching the consultation.

It says: “The pension schemes concerned are not public sector pension schemes and were not within the scope of public sector pension reform.

"These proposed reforms ride roughshod over those protections. Pension costs across the NDA estate are falling and are projected to continue to fall over the long-term both in terms of the schemes subject to this consultation and overall.”

But an NDA spokesman defended its stance.

He said: “The Government’s aim is to make public sector pensions fair and to put them on an affordable and sustainable footing.

"Final-salary pension schemes across the NDA estate are within the scope of public sector pension reform.”

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