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Water Strike Ballot On Pension Cuts

Friday, September 4, 2015

GMB Official Strike Ballot Begins On 18th 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 18th September after notice is served 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

Contact: Maxine Bartholomew GMB Organiser North East on 07870 176 742 or Mick Ainsley East of England 07974 250947 or GMB press office 07974 251 823 or 07921 289880

Or Keith Blackburn Unison Officer Mobile 07904327115  or Pat McCourt Unite Officer Mobile 07918742080

Notes to editors

Copy of previous 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”.

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