Anglian Water CEO tells unions to ballot for action over DB scheme closure

Written by Natalie Tuck

The CEO of Anglian Water has told unions to ballot for industrial action, as he is not prepared to attend any meetings with Acas, over the closure of its defined benefit pension schemes.

Trade unions GMB, Unite and Unison said that in a meeting with Anglian Water CEO Peter Simpson on Thursday, 8 March, in which they sought to involve the mediation services of Acas into future meetings, CEO Peter Simpson refused the idea.

The unions claim over 1,300 workers at Anglian Water are affected by the closure of the DB pension schemes, which could see some losing up to £100,000 should the new planned defined contribution pension scheme fail to deliver.

According to the unions, Anglian Water has proposed to close the DB schemes because the water regulator, Ofwat, has told them to save money. A statement from the unions said: “Anglian Water will certainly ‘love every drop’ they can wring out of employees’ pensions, they will use the proceeds to prop up their already vast profits and this will amount to an incredible shortfall for employees making it much more difficult for them in their old age than it otherwise might have been.

"This is in stark contrast to the four executive directors at Anglian Water who are on target to be paid over 3.7m in remuneration between them this year. The CEO of Anglian Water, Peter Simpson, who's pay is around 150 times the lowest wage for a worker at Anglian Water, is on target to receive a minimum total remuneration of £1.2m, and as his pension is fully funded he’s a deferred member of the pension schemes so he receives a significant payment in lieu instead. According to the company annual report he received overall £1.5m in 2016/17 and £2.3m the year before.”

Furthermore, the unions said that Anglian Water paid £320.3m in dividends to shareholders in 2016/17, of which £192.3m was paid in interest to service a loan from Anglian Water Overseas Holdings Ltd to Anglian Water in the UK, Michael Gove has recently questioned the way water companies are set up, in terms of their inter-company arrangements and the way they pay tax. Whilst this is not illegal, it is certainly immoral."

GMB regional officer Michael Ainsley said that he has written to Frank Field and the commons pension’s select committee asking that they look into the “scandal” as the “company is ignoring the union member’s rejection of their proposals and are imposing the closure of their pensions”.

In response to the claims, an Anglian Water spokesperson said: “There is no reason to go to Acas while the unions refuse to be open about what support there is for their position, if any. In contrast, more than 2,000 colleagues took part in our consultation on the creation of our new pension scheme. We drew on the expertise of advisers from across the sector to create a fair package for all that is widely understood and accepted by our staff.

“We simply do not believe the unions have support for their position. They’ve refused to share turnout numbers, and emails canvassing opinion have not even given employees the option to accept the generous deal we’ve put on the table. Their posturing is wholly unrepresentative of people who work at Anglian Water.

“Instead, they’ve chosen to turn down – on behalf of all 5,000 of our employees – a generous offer of a guaranteed 6 per cent (3+3) pay increase over two years, and a one-off payment to every affected member of the old DB scheme. We know the vast majority of our employees support our changes because 3,500 of them have already signed up to accept or make changes to their new flexible pension and benefits package.”

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