After the meeting, they agreed a joint statement on the next steps to oppose the proposals (see below).
The meeting of representatives from the four unions – Prospect, GMB, Unite and ASLEF/TSSA – coincided with the beginning of a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority statutory consultation on the proposed government cuts to final salary pension benefits across the NDA estate. The consultation will end on Friday 10 March 2017.
Prospect deputy general secretary Dai Hudd said after the meeting: “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.
“Jesse Norman, who replaced Baroness Neville Rolfe on 21 December as the responsible minister, must heed to the unions’ responses to the consultation. If he refuses to listen, members’ anger will boil over in to more direct action.
“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.”
Prospect members will meet later in January to consider further steps in the campaign.
In their joint statement, the unions challenge the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s justification for launching the formal consultation on reforming nuclear workers’ pensions, who are covered by statutory protection.
The NDA has claimed that: “The government’s aim is to make public sector pensions fair and to put them on an affordable and sustainable footing.”
It has further stated that: “...final salary pension schemes across the NDA estate are within the scope of public sector pension reform.”
The unions declared: “These statements are misleading and deeply flawed.
“The pension schemes concerned are not public sector pension schemes and were not within the scope of public sector pension reform. They were not included in the terms of reference of the Hutton review of public sector pensions and they were not covered by the Public Service Pensions Act 2013.
“The scheme members affected by this consultation were previously removed from public sector pension schemes. At that time, Prospect won statutory protections against detrimental pension changes to ensure that the privatisation/contractorisation process was a success. 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. Pension provision is already on an ‘affordable and sustainable footing’.
“The trade unions are united in their efforts to oppose these unnecessary and unjustified attacks on our members’ pensions. We will oppose the imposition of any detrimental changes.”
The unions jointly resolved to:
- respond robustly to the consultation
- correct the misrepresentation of the position by the NDA and the government
- campaign and oppose the proposals politically, including in the anticipated upcoming by-election in Copeland
- examine using the legal process to oppose the imposition of any detrimental changes
- consider and develop plans for industrial action.
More than 11,000 workers across the following sites will be affected:
- Sellafield Ltd (Cumbria and Warrington)
- 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).