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21 Nov Durham Pensions Cuts Protest

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GMB And Unite Northumbrian Water Further Durham Protest On Sat 21st Nov As Industrial Action Continues In Dispute Over Cuts In Pensions

MP's, customers and others are now questioning why the company cannot afford to maintain the existing pension scheme despite making huge profits says GMB.

GMB and Unite members engaged in industrial action over pension cuts at Northumbrian Water are taking part in a further protest rally in Durham on Saturday 21st November 2015. See notes to editors for GMB press release with details of the dispute where industrial action has been underway since 20th October.

This action followed ballots held by both unions. The action covers Northumbrian Water operations which supplies 2.7 million people in Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside as well as the counties of Durham and Northumberland and parts of North Yorkshire.

The details of the further protest are as follows:

Between 10.30 am - 12.30 pm on Saturday 21 November 2015,
Boldon House,
Wheatlands Way,
Pity Me,
Durham DH1 5FA.

There will be members there with flags and banners and be available for interview.

Maxine Bartholomew, GMB Regional Organiser, said “Northumbrian Water is spending thousands of pounds on contractors and extra equipment. Managers are having to work shifts around the clock and all non-essential work has been cancelled. The Company cannot sustain these costs indefinitely.

MP's, customers and others are now questioning why the Company cannot afford to maintain the existing pension scheme, despite making huge profits, returning vast sums to CKI and continuing to pay large bonuses to its highly paid directors.

Northumbrian Water is an exceptionally profitable company. According to the National Audit Office, they have experienced a tax windfall of £140 million pounds. In addition over the previous 15 months they have recorded an operating profit of £384.3 million pounds.

However despite this level of profit they are threatening the pensions of GMB and Unite members who are currently taking industrial action against Northumbrian Water.

GMB members are not seeking any enhancements to their pensions that would increase costs to customers. They are only seeking to maintain what they currently have.

Clearly Northumbrian can afford to provide a decent pension to its workforce.

After all it is the hard working employees that have largely been responsible for the current level of company profits; from which managers extract a healthy and sizeable benefits package.

Thousands of GMB members have contacted The Chief Executive, Heidi Motram. She enjoys a pay package of nearly £1 million while Hong Kong based owners Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) continues to maintain an excellent rate of return on its initial investment.”

End

Contact: Maxine Bartholomew GMB Organiser 07870 176742 or 0191 233 3930  or P McCourt  Unite Officer 07918 742080 or GMB press office 07921 289 880

Notes to editors

Copy of previous GMB press releases:

GMB press release dated 15th October.

GMB AND UNITE MEMBERS AT NORTHUMBRIAN WATER TO COMMENCE INDUSTRIAL ACTION FROM TUE 20TH OCT IN DISPUTE OVER CUTS IN PENSIONS

Far too much money is leaking out of the North East economy and this attempt to increase the amount leaking out has to stop says GMB

GMB and Unite have 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 dispute over pensions. See notes to editor for copy of previous press release on the dispute.

This follows ballots held by both unions. The action will cover Northumbrian Water operations which supplies 2.7 million people in Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside as well as the counties of Durham and Northumberland and parts of North Yorkshire.

Maxine Bartholomew, GMB Regional Organiser, said "Northumbrian Water call themselves an ethical company. But they choose to increase the shareholders' dividend while proposing pension cuts to the workers who make them these massive profits. According to the company's last financial statement, Northumbrian Water had a £384 million operating profit. How much profit is enough for this Company?

Our members' pensions are spent in the local economy which benefits the North East unlike the Chinese owners who send most of their profits back to Hong Kong. Far too much money is leaking out of the North East economy and this attempt to increase the amount leaking out has to stop".

Pat McCourt, Unite Officer, said "It's more than 30 years since there has been any industrial action with this Company. The Company is hell bent on forcing our members into taking this industrial action to protect their pensions and their income in retirement. After all pensions are just deferred pay and the Company are cutting that while siphoning off profits abroad".

-ENDS-


GMB release  4th September 2015

GMB Official Strike Ballot Begins On 11th Sept For Water Workers In North East And Eastern England In Dispute Over Pensions Cuts
 

Pension scheme is affordable as Northumbrian Water is highly profitable generating £384.3 million profit for 15 month ending March 2015 says GMB
 

GMB, Unite and Unison will conduct an official strike ballot for members employed in Northumbrian Water and Essex and Suffolk Water for industrial action on proposed changes to the Defined Benefit pension scheme. The ballot will commence on 11th September. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release on the dispute dated 27 July 2015.
 

Northumbrian Water supplies 2.7 million people in Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside as well as the counties of Durham and Northumberland and parts of North Yorkshire. Essex and Suffolk Water supplies 1.8 million people in southeast Norfolk, east Suffolk, Essex and the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge.
 

Maxine Bartholomew, GMB organiser, said “Members of the three unions consider that there are major problems with the employer over the latest pension proposals.
 

Northumbrian Water was given a final opportunity on 21st August 2015 to avoid a formal dispute, but failed to reconsider its position and acknowledge the strength of feeling against the proposed changes with union members voting overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action via consultative ballot.
 

Contrary to claims made by Northumbrian Water, a formal ballot for industrial action will take place after consultation has concluded on 10th September 2015.
 

Northumbrian Water's attack on the Defined Benefit pension scheme is also an attack on the local economy, as members will have greatly reduced pension income to spend in their local communities upon retirement. Unions consider believe that Northumbrian Water customers would prefer this money remained in the local economy rather than being diverted offshore to foreign investors.
 

Throughout eight months of consultation, Northumbrian Water has consistently failed to demonstrate the existing Defined Benefit pension scheme is unaffordable. Northumbrian Water remains a highly profitable company which generated an operating profit of £384.3 million for the 15 month period ending March 2015.
 

The joint trade unions remain open to further discussions with Northumbrian Water prior to beginning to ballot their membership for industrial action on 11th September 2015.”
 

ENDS

GMB press release dated 27th July 2015

GMB TO BALLOT MEMBERS IN WATER INDUSTRY IN NORTH EAST AND EASTERN ENGLAND IN DISPUTE OVER PENSIONS CUTS

Northumbrian Water returned approximately £630 million profit back to the Hong Kong based owners CKI in the last two years so there is no need for these cuts says GMB

GMB, the union for water workers, is to undertake a consultative ballot of members employed by Northumbrian Water and its subsidiary companies in a dispute over pensions.

GMB will ballot members in the North East and members in Essex and Suffolk Water who are owned by Northumbrian Water.

Northumbrian Water supplies 2.7 million people in Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside as well as the counties of Durham and Northumberland and parts of North Yorkshire. Essex and Suffolk Water supplies 1.8 million people in southeast Norfolk, east Suffolk, Essex and the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge.

Discussions have been taking place since the early part of 2015 but no progress has been made.

Maxine Bartholomew, GMB Regional Organiser, said “Northumbrian Water want to change the terms and benefits of its final salary scheme. Unions are now undertaking a consultative ballot which could result in a formal ballot for industrial action.

The company claim that the current final salary scheme is unaffordable.  However the trade unions have said that Northumbrian Water have at each stage consistently failed to show costing to back up their arguments.

The BBC recently reported that Northumbrian Water returned approximately £630 million profit back to the Hong Kong based owners Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) in the last two years so there is no need for these cuts.

CKI gave assurances to the regulator OFWAT and the Trustees of the pension scheme that it was fully committed to fully safeguarding pension entitlements.

CKI are just wallowing in greed.  Shareholders and offshoring are being put before pensioners. A product that falls from the sky naturally should not be abused in this way”.

Pat McCourt, Organiser for Unite, added “What is happening is a scandal.  While massive profits are being sent back to China, thousands of loyal workers in Northumbria Water face poverty in their later years”.

Ends

 

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