Nearly 3,000 workers at industrial conglomerate GE will be taking ‘a huge financial hit’ under proposals to close the defined benefit final salary pension scheme, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, warned today (Monday 1 February).

Unite said it was ‘a financial torpedo’ for the retirement incomes of 2,800 workers who had shown ‘an incredible amount of dedication’ to keep GE businesses running smoothly during the pandemic.

The company wants to close the GE Pension Plan (GEPP) and the GEAPS defined benefit pension schemes and, from 1 January 2022, move members to the GE’s existing and inferior defined contribution scheme which is at the mercy of fluctuations in global stock markets.

Unite contrasted the salami slicing of its members’ retirement ‘pots’ with the heavy criticism of the $47m bonus secured by General Electric’s US chief executive Larry Culp, after his pay package was rewritten to reduce the risk that he would miss out on this windfall.

Unite has written to GE’s UK CEO Kevin O’Neill asking for consultations to take place at a national level before the deadline of 9 April as the best way to deal with this issue in ‘the most organised and coherent manner possible.’ The union said negotiations should take longer than the 60 days, if necessary.

In the letter, Unite national officer Linda McCulloch said: Unite members and the wider GE workforce have shown an incredible amount of dedication and commitment to keep their businesses going during the pandemic, and that the sweeping job cuts and restructurings in a number of areas have already hit many people very hard indeed. 

“To now be faced with extremely significant changes to their pension provisions will doubtless come as another hard blow in the middle of what is already an incredibly difficult situation.

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy added: “As these pension proposals are a financial torpedo and the difference between our members having a comfortable retirement or one wracked by money worries, we want the most extensive negotiations for the reasoning behind these plans as workers face a huge financial hit.”

Unite’s membership embraces GE Caledonian, Prestwick, Scotland; GE Aviation Systems, Cheltenham; and GE Aviation, Nantgarw, Wales. Unite is also represented at Willans Works, Rugby; Renewables at Red Hill, Stafford; TST in Stafford and covers the home-based field core engineers.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The GE website states: ‘In the UK and Ireland, GE has over 125 years’ experience, employing around 10,000 people. As a large exporter, GE occupies over 20 sites across the country and contracts thousands of UK based suppliers.’

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org 

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.