Grampian staff threaten pensions walkout

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Related tags: Strike action, Pension, Trade union

Grampian Country Food has entered a critical stage in talks to avert strike action. The threatened walkouts follow Grampian's decision to end final...

Grampian Country Food has entered a critical stage in talks to avert strike action. The threatened walkouts follow Grampian's decision to end final salary pension schemes for workers at a number of its plants.

Officials from the TGWU union were scheduled to have talks with Grampian's management on May 5. The union wants a three-month extension to Grampian's May 31 deadline for workers to accept the new pension arrangements.

In consultative ballots, workers gave "a very big yes" for a further vote on strike action, said the TGWU national secretary Chris Kaufman.

Speaking last week, Kaufman said:"We haven't been properly consulted and therefore we were not in a position for individuals to make informed decisions about their best options.

"If they don't move the deadline then we've got to act pretty quickly. We need the extension just to have a look at what's going on. We will be on a collision course unless things move in the next 10 days."

The company has strenuously denied reports that it wants to abandon final salary schemes in order to bolster its financial position in advance of a stock market flotation. "We are a private company and we will look to remain a private company," said Grampian.

Following increasing concern about failing company pension schemes -- and several high profile collapses in which workers lost their entitlements -- the government established a pensions regulator in April. The Grampian case could be one of the first to cross the regulator's desk.