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North West Water No To Pension Cuts

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

GMB Members At United Utilities Overwhelming Vote To Reject Cuts To Pensions From April 2016

We are considering alongside the other unions the next steps with the possibility of moving to an industrial action ballot says GMB.

GMB members employed by United Utilities have voted by a massive margin in a consultative ballot to reject the company’s plan for all staff to move from a defined benefit final salary pension to a defined contribution pension scheme after 31 March 2016. See notes to editors for copy of previous GMB press release on the issue.

The consultative ballot followed a GMB meeting with senior representatives of the company on 16th October to commence consultation on pensions. The company began a formal 60 day consultation on 16th November which will conclude in mid-January.

Eddie Parker, GMB Regional Officer, said “The company 60-day consultation on the proposal can hardly be called a consultation when the Company has already declared that it wants to close the scheme before talks have even commenced.

The proposal is another blow to hard working members at United Utilities who had already accepted cuts to their pensions to keep them sustainable.

The Company has enjoyed a £226M tax windfall over the past 5 years, due in part to low interest rates. It is now proposing to close the scheme because low interest rates are affecting future liabilities. You can't make it up.

United could have paid off the deficit with the tax windfall over the past 5 years.

GMB is now considering alongside the other unions the next steps with the possibility of moving to an industrial action ballot.”

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Contact: Eamon O Hearn 07918 777097 or for GMB at United Utilities Eddie Parker 07740 804046 or GMB press office 07921 289 880.

Notes to editors:

Copy of previous GMB press release dated 19th October 2015.

GMB NATIONAL WATER FORUM TO DISCUSS PROSPECT OF SECOND DISPUTE AS UNITED UTILITIES PROPOSE CLOSURE OF DEFINED BENEFIT PENSION SCHEME

NAO report of £1,250m windfall proves that water companies can't cry poverty as they seek to shift more costs and efficiencies onto the workforce says GMB

GMB National Water Forum, covering nearly 10,000 members in the water industry, on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th October in Sheffield will consider proposals on the closure of the United Utilities Defined Benefit Pension Scheme for active members as of 31 March 2016. The scheme was closed to new entrants in 2006.

There will be GMB United Utilities Representatives meeting on Thursday 22nd October followed by meeting of the joint unions in United Utilities on Friday 30th October to agree a joint union response to these proposals.

GMB members at United Utilities provide water and sewage services to around seven million people in North West England. These members look after the water and wastewater infrastructure across the North West covering:

Over 42,000 kilometres of water pipes, from Cumbria to Cheshire.

Over 76,000 kilometres of sewers.

569 wastewater treatment works.

94 water treatment works.

Over 56,000 hectares of catchment land.

Last week GMB and Unite issued notice to Northumbrian Water that members will commence indefinite industrial action short of a strike from 4.30pm on Tuesday 20th October in a separate dispute over pensions. See notes to editor for copy of previous press release on the dispute.

Eddie Parker, GMB regional officer, said “GMB met with senior representatives of the company on 16th October in order to commence consultation on pensions. The company proposes to move active Defined Benefit member’s to the existing UU Defined Contribution Pension Scheme on 1st April 2016. The accrued pension value as of 31st March 2016 will be protected in line with the relevant scheme rules.

The company have made the union aware that they intend to communicate to all impacted employees immediately and then begin a formal 60 day consultation beginning on 16th November.

The union have conveyed their extreme disgust, dissatisfaction and concerns with these proposals.

The discussion at the GMB National Water Forum on a response to these UU pensions proposals means that it is very likely that the prospect for industrial action will move a step closer.

Eamon O Hearn, lead officer for the Water Industry, added “Last week the NAO reported that water companies gained £840m from lower-than-forecast rates of interest and £410m from reduced corporation tax rates.

The NAO report proves that water companies can't cry poverty as they seek to shift more costs and efficiencies onto the workforce.

GMB members have played a key role in delivering significant improvements in service and delivery standards, despite continued reductions in front line staff since privatisation.

The warning that there is little scope for further efficiency gains left in the industry will come as cold comfort to GMB members in Northumbrian Water or in United Utilities, and in the wider industry, who have seen their pensions attacked in order to drain profits out of the UK and into the hands of opaque holding companies.

GMB welcomes the NAO call for greater transparency over the financial and corporate structures of water companies which echoes previous GMB campaigns against private equity barons.

Their raids on pensions and reductions in workforce numbers have drained profits out of the UK and even the NAO are saying there is little left to cut."

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