In a move toward a possible strike, workers at Bentley Motors headquarters in Crewe, UK, have voted in support of industrial action in a consultative ballot over plans to close the company’s defined benefit pension plan.
Members of union Unite, including car production workers, senior staff, and managers, backed a strike action by an overwhelming 98% on a 92% turnout in the consultative ballot. The union warns that the move to close the pension plan could cost Bentley workers tens of thousands of pounds in retirement income a year.
“This massive vote in favor of action demonstrates the anger and strength of feeling among workers over Bentley’s pension proposals,” Phil Morgan, Unite regional officer, said in a release.
According to Unite, the proposal to close the defined benefit plan would affect 1,200 Bentley workers, who are members of the Rolls Royce and Bentley Pension Fund (RRBPF). Unite said it will now make arrangements to hold a full statutory industrial action ballot, which could result in a strike, unless Volkswagen-owned Bentley nixes the idea of shuttering its pension.
“The union has presented counter proposals to the company as an alternative to the proposed closure of the pension,” said Morgan. “We would urge bosses at Bentley and its parent company Volkswagen to listen to the workforce and further engage in meaningful talks with Unite aimed at reaching a mutually acceptable position.”
Earlier this year, Bentley workers in Crewe received a letter from the company saying that a consultation would be held to review the winding down of the pension plan, which has been closed to new members since 2012.
“Although entering into a consultation is not an easy step to take, and no decisions have been made, the RRBPF deficit is more than £500 million and the cost of funding the scheme has increased by 50% in the past five years,” said a company spokesperson in January, when workers staged a short protest over the matter, according to news reports. “While funding is in place to secure members’ contributions, the ongoing level of financial risk is unsustainable.”
According to the company, the proposal will affect 28% of Bentley employees, who are still accruing benefits in the defined benefit plan, while the remaining employees will be enrolled in a defined contribution plan.