Staff at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) have been balloted on strike action following a dispute over an “insulting” change to pensions.
The nuclear deterrent manufacturer is one of Basingstoke and Deane’s biggest employers, with staff working at sites in both Aldermaston and Burghfield.
However, tensions have flared with trade union groups Prospect and Unite after AWE proposed replacing its defined benefit pension scheme with a defined contribution alternative.
A consultation period ended on July 25, with discussions continuing with trade unions since then, although Prospect have insisted that guarantees previously given to members were being “reneged on”.
Prospect negotiator Richard Tabbner said: “The company’s proposal is actually worse than the scheme that staff can currently choose to join.
“This is frankly insulting.
“Members are particularly angry because the guarantees that were given at the time AWE was effectively privatised have been reneged on.
“The reality is that after many months of consultation and discussions the company has not improved its offer at all.
“This leaves Prospect with no choice but to ballot members on taking industrial action.”
A defined benefit pension scheme is a pension plan where an employer promises a specified monthly benefit on retirement, based on an employee’s earnings, length of service and age.
Alternatively, a defined contribution pension scheme gives an employee an accumulated sum when they retire, which can be used to secure a pension income through an annuity.
Mr Tabbner added: “The Government cannot face both ways, and treat AWE employees as private sector employees for the purposed of pension provision, yet when it comes to redundancy terms include them in the future cap on redundancy pay.
“The secretary of state needs to step in now to ensure there is a fair resolution that meets the needs of all stakeholders.”
A statement from AWE said: “The Prospect and Unite trade unions have formally notified AWE of their intention to ballot members on industrial action over pensions.
“AWE continues to maintain a regular dialogue with its trade unions as part of the pension consultation process.
“Safety and security remain AWE’s top priorities and the company has procedures in place to ensure that the safety of its operations are maintained at all times.”