Belfast Telegraph

Nuclear workers face strike ballot in row over pensions

Thousands of nuclear workers at sites across the UK, including Sellafield, are to be balloted for strikes in a row over pensions.

Members of trade unions including the GMB, mainly involved in decommissioning work, will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action in protest at plans by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to make savings of £660 million.

Strikes could be held at the end of February if there is support from workers, who are based at Sellafield (Cumbria), Magnox (Anglesey), Ayrshire, Dorset, Dumfriesshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Gwynedd, Kent, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Direct Rail Services (Cumbria), Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (Caithness), Low Level Waste Repository (Cumbria) and International Nuclear Services (Cumbria, Warrington).

The unions said the Government's expectation is that the final salary pension schemes in place across the NDA estate will be reformed by April 2018.

Justin Bowden, national officer of the GMB, said: "Nuclear workers have played their part in keeping the country's lights on for decades. Senior representatives were unanimous that if this Government is determined to break its promises and is not prepared to negotiate, there is no alternative but to ballot members to take strike action.

"GMB remains committed to resolving these issues amicably and is available for meaningful talks should the Government want to pull back from this shocking episode of broken promises to workers in the nuclear industry."

An NDA spokesman said: " Government policy is that all public sector final salary pensions schemes should reformed by 2018, and four million public sector workers have already moved to new pension arrangements.

"Specific decisions on how to change the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's estate pension schemes have yet to be taken. We have begun a formal consultation today."

Unite national officer Kevin Coyne said a meeting of union officials today reflected the "high level of anger" felt by shop stewards from the sites.

"They are dismayed that the retirement incomes of 16,000 nuclear industry workers are under serious threat because of the financial machinations of the Treasury.

"We were due to have a ministerial meeting on Wednesday but that was abruptly called off.

"This demonstrates the continuing contempt of the Government for the nuclear industry and its highly skilled workforce and calls into question whether ministers are serious about resolving this issue.

"We are now calling for an urgent meeting with the recently appointed energy minister Jesse Norman to discuss what we consider an unnecessary Treasury-led 'raid' which could see our members' pensions slashed by thousands."

Prospect deputy general secretary Dai Hudd said: "Our members are justifiably angry, and will oppose this crude attempt to break agreements enshrined in law.

"The Electricity Act 1989 and the Energy Act 2004, provide statutory pensions protection for staff whose employment transferred from the public sector when the electricity industry was privatised, and those employed on nuclear decommissioning or site clean-up.

"Today's meeting has made clear that the unions are prepared to consider further legal action and consult members on potential industrial action if their responses to the consultation are ignored."