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Strike expected in defense of final salary pension scheme
By David Turner, Financial Times
June 10, 2003
UK - Workers at a
chemical company are expected to vote to strike over keeping its final
salary pension scheme open to future workers there, according to the GMB
union. It would be the first strike of its kind in Britain.
The dispute, which
involves employees at French-owned Rhodia, highlights the rapid rise of
pensions to the top of the trade unions' agenda.
Kevin Curran, the
GMB's new general secretary, said: "Companies across Britain are
using the current pension crisis to flee from their responsibility to
Last year, workers
at Caparo, the steel company, were successful in Britain's first strike in
defence of a final salary scheme for existing workers.
GMB members at sites
in Widnes, Bristol and Oldbury, West Midlands, are voting this week on
industrial action against the company's decision to end access to the
final salary scheme for any new worker, and in protest at the company's
management of the scheme for existing staff.
The union says
Rhodia has taken a pension contribution holiday for the past three years,
amounting to 4 per cent of pay, by cutting employer contribution levels
from 18 to 14 per cent.
Mr Curran said:
"GMB members recognise that closing the scheme to new members is just
the first step that this unscrupulous company will take to eventually
strip current workers of their hard-earned pensions."
The dispute involves
more than 600 workers.
The company said:
"Rhodia has chosen as a matter of priority to safeguard as much as
possible the interests of current employees and does not wish to
compromise this by making additional undertakings to individuals who
currently do not work for the company."
The government is
expected this week to announce plans to scrap the requirement that final
salary schemes must be inflation-proofed in an effort to cut the cost of
Trade unionists must
be realistic in their relationship with the Labour government, Ian
McCartney, the party's chairman, said yesterday.
He told the GMB's
conference in Blackpool: "A relationship where we agree on everything
is unrealistic. A relationship where we disagree all the time is not a
relationship at all."
He said talking down the achievements of the partnership between Labour and the unions would only lead to "the government of your worst nightmares - the Tories".