THE CRISIS over pensions has provoked another group of workers into strike action to defend their final salary pension scheme. Some 600 workers at the Rhodia chemical firm in Oldbury and Widnes were set to strike on Friday this week. The workers are members of the GMB and Amicus unions. The multinational wants to close their pension scheme to new entrants.
It hoped that by stressing that current workers will stay in the scheme it could divide and rule between new and longstanding workers. But Rhodia workers refused to fall for this. Those in the GMB union voted 70 percent for action and Amicus members voted 55 percent for action. An Amicus member in Oldbury told Socialist Worker, 'This site has been here for decades and we have never ever had a strike. But we regard this as the thin end of the wedge. We've had a final salary pension scheme that we cherished for years. Last October the company decided they wanted to close the scheme to new entrants. They also wanted to increase our contributions by around 1.5 percent.
'The company agreed to get a working party together. They said if we paid the increased contributions they would talk about keeping the scheme open. This March we started paying the new contributions. Then of course the company pulled the rug from underneath us and at the second working party meeting said they were shutting the scheme to new entrants and we could piss off. Our view is with no new entrants and therefore less money coming in, it will come to a point where the company will pull the plug on the whole scheme. We have to defend the scheme now.'
Rhodia has already reduced its employer contributions to the pension scheme from 18 percent to 14 percent over the last three years. Yet Rhodia is the world's largest producer of speciality phosphate since it bought out the British-based firm Albright & Wilson in 2000.