AWE enters conciliation talks after new pension offer rejected

AWE enters conciliation talks after new pension offer rejected

Prospect representatives have begun conciliation talks with the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) after members overwhelmingly rejected the latest offer on pensions from the employer.

AWE pensions dispute rally

Between May and July the company, which makes the UK’s nuclear deterrent, consulted on closing its defined benefit pension scheme and replacing it with a defined contribution scheme that was inferior to the defined contribution scheme it already offered to staff.

After members took strike action over the proposals, the company presented a new offer that involved a higher potential employer contribution to the defined contribution pension scheme. The recognised trade unions presented counter-proposals but the company did not engage in substantive discussions on these.

Prospect put the revised proposals to a ballot of members. The ballot closed today (December 13) and the result was overwhelming – 80% of members who voted rejected the proposals, on a turnout of more than 75%.

Before the ballot closed, the company invited the trade unions to talks under the auspices of ACAS, the conciliation service. Those talks began today.

Richard Tabbner, Prospect’s negotiations officer, said:

“This result sends a very clear message - members are resolutely opposed to the company’s current pension proposals.

“We welcome the invitation to conciliation talks and have withdrawn notice for the strike action planned for 15 December as a gesture of good faith. However, the company must be serious about engaging on the improvements our members want to see or these talks will just be a waste of time. It is unfortunate that improvements to the proposals or offers of conciliation have only come after members have voted for and participated in industrial action.

“Prospect members working for AWE are dedicated professionals who care deeply about their role in the defence of the UK. They do not want to take industrial action but neither can they stand by when commitments they were given are reneged on.”

AWE pensions raised at PMQs

In a related development Prospect has written to defence secretary Michael Fallon requesting a meeting after the dispute at AWE was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.

“AWE is a private company but the Ministry of Defence is intimately involved in this dispute as the sole customer and through formal governance arrangements for the pension scheme. The secretary of state should be doing more to help reach a fair resolution,” concluded Tabbner.