Gatwick Airport has been accused of “blatant opportunism” over the closure of its final salary pension scheme by trade union Unite.
The attack comes as the union serves notice that it will begin balloting its 1,800 members for strike action and action short of strike from next week.
Some 1,800 members of Unite, including security staff, fire-fighters, airfield operations and surface transport workers, will begin voting from October 28th, following a 96 per cent vote in favour of action in a recent consultative ballot.
The ballot closes on November 16th.
Unite is pressing the company to explain why it has failed to tackle the pension deficit when it has paid out a total of £178 million in shareholder dividends since 2014.
Unite officer Phil Silkstone said: “Our members are rightly furious.
“Yet again we have ordinary hardworking people losing out on security in retirement at the expense of greedy, fat cat bosses and massive shareholder pay-outs.
“Closing the scheme is nothing more than blatant opportunism. GAL is owned by a hugely profitable business.
“Last year its profits rose by a staggering 40 per cent to a record £142 million.
“So any pleas of poverty simply don’t ring true.”
Unite has expressed growing frustration over the company’s steadfast refusal to consider sustainable alternatives to keep the defined benefit scheme open and improve the defined contribution scheme, following a series of meetings stretching back to the start of the 60-day consultation period on September 19th.
A spokesperson for Gatwick Airport responded to the potential vote
“Gatwick Airport, like any business, will regularly monitor reward packages to ensure that they remain competitive and to safeguard the long-term future for our employees, passengers and local community.
“In recent years there have been a number of changes to pensions in the UK.
“Many of these have been driven by the escalating costs and risks of pension schemes and Gatwick’s defined benefit plan also faces these challenges.
“As a result, we have proposed to members of this plan that it be closed to the build-up of future benefits.
“We will offer membership to our defined contribution plan for future service.
“We fully appreciate that pensions are a personal and sensitive topic and it goes without saying that we are taking this forward in a collaborative manner.
“We will continue to engage, consult and collect the views of employees and encourage members of the defined benefits plan to use the consultation process to air views, understand the issues facing the scheme and ask questions,” added the spokesperson.