Threat of strike action at Pilks

Workers at Pilkington Glass are threatening strike action over changes to their pensions
Workers at Pilkington Glass are threatening strike action over changes to their pensions

WORKERS at Pilkington Glass are on the brink of taking strike action over claims bosses have threatened workers with a pay freeze unless they agree to pension changes.

Staff were alleged told they had to sign up to new fixed payout agreement after the company uncovered a huge deficit in its pension pot.

Unions now say management have warned they will get around dissenters by refusing to offer any future wage increase to those who oppose the scheme.

Officials from Unite are now seeking legal advice and have warned strike action could follow unless the threat is dropped.

They also claim:

* Nine out of 10 workers are calling for a strike ballot

* Dissenting workers have been threatening with the sack

* Pilks have refused to offer independent financial advice to its workers

National officer Linda McCulloch said: “The company have refused to negotiate or explore alternatives to freezing its workers’ pensionable pay.

“Staff are furious, nine in ten of them want a strike ballot and the union is taking advice from its lawyers on the legality of the company’s proposals.

“Unite is going to fight the company’s bullying behaviour until managers get around the table and negotiate a sensible and fair solution.”

The row comes just weeks after the company, which was once the largest employer in St Helens, announced it was cutting hundreds of local jobs.

Once mighty Pilks has been badly hit by the economic turmoil of recent times.

Purchased by Japanese rival Nippon Glass almost ten years ago, the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent global recession battered the company’s finances.

A Pilkington spokeswoman declined to comment on the union’s allegation managers had threatened workers with a pay freeze but insisted it had acted fairly throughout its negotiations.

She added: “The Pilkington Superannuation Scheme (PSS) is a defined benefits pension scheme and is amongst the most generous in the UK. It continues to be well supported by the Company (which has paid over £120 million in additional contributions during the past four years).

“Despite this, the cost of funding has risen enormously in recent years and is now one of the Company’s major financial outlays. We recognised that responsible action was required to protect the future of the Scheme.

“We have been very keen to avoid having to close the Scheme completely and have looked at ways of keeping it open while limiting future risk, for the benefit of current members.

“We have therefore proposed that the fairest solution is to restrict future accrual in the defined benefits scheme. This will reduce the level of risk run by the Company in maintaining the PSS as an open scheme.

“Over the past three months, we have held extensive consultations (more than the minimum required by law) and listened to the views of scheme members and their union representatives.”