A STRIKE is on the agenda for GE employees in Rugby due to ‘savage’ proposed cuts to their retirement incomes which could amount to £11,000 a year.
Trade union Unite said a ballot for industrial action this summer was ‘very much on the cards’ amid a ‘rising tide of anger’ among GE workers, including those at sites in Boughton Road, Technology Drive and Newbold Road – many of whom have given decades of loyal service.
Unite said the American-owned multinational’s proposals to switch the pension scheme from final salary to a defined contribution model – which is at the mercy of fluctuations in world stock markets – were ‘a savage kick in the teeth’ for the workers, and accused GE of using the pandemic to justify the cuts.
The loss of pension depends on an individual’s circumstances, but could be more than £11,000 a year if the changes are imposed next January.
A GE spokesperson said: “The proposed changes to our UK defined benefit pension offerings are difficult but necessary as we continue to accelerate GE’s transformation and solidify our financial position.
“We have completed a thorough 60 day consultation with plan members and are considering all questions and feedback.”
In a letter to GE, Unite national officer Linda McCulloch castigated the company for protecting the pensions of its top executives while cutting those of the wider workforce.
She Wrote: “The handling of this situation from GE management has been utterly abysmal, and the blatant refusal to engage in a proper negotiation with Unite officials is nothing other than a display of arrogance and contempt for the thousands of Unite members who work in GE.
“To take advantage of the Covid-19 crisis and attack employees’ pensions while they feel vulnerable is disgusting and shameful behaviour, particularly when GE is still in an extremely healthy financial situation.”
Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “What the company is proposing is a savage blow for the 2,600 UK workers still in the defined benefit scheme.
“GE’s reputation is very much at stake as it joins the sorry rollcall of companies which have cynically exploited the pandemic to attack the employment conditions of employees.”
The leader of Rugby’s Liberal Democrat Group, Coun Jerry Roodhouse, said: “Hitting those who have worked and saved hard while with the company is a smack in the face.
“Although I see striking as a last resort, I would hope GE would change their minds on this matter. If not, the individuals are left with no choice but to strike.”