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AZ Macclesfield staff vote to strike

GMB union's 700 members at AZ's Macclesfield factory in the UK have voted almost 3-1 in favour of strike action, following a row over pensions

GMB union's 700 members at AstraZeneca's (AZ) Macclesfield factory in the UK (among them qualified research staff), have voted almost 3-1 in favour of strike action, following a row over pensions.

Union bosses have said that if AZ refuses to backtrack on what it describes as "draconian" proposals to end its final salary pension scheme for 2,500 staff,based mainly at Macclesfield, industrial action will begin next month at the plant.

This marks the first time in its history that AZ has faced strike action.

The strike is in response to a series of global cost-cutting measures, announced by AZ earlier this year, which include cuts to its UK workforce and closure of its final salary scheme to new members. Existing members have been offered the chance to switch their scheme or make new contributions into a defined benefits scheme.

GMB national officer, Allan Black, claimed that companies usually stop final salary schemes for financial reasons, but said AZ is an "extremely profitable company and so it shouldn't be happening."

"There are better changes they can make to the pension scheme and we think there are alternatives, which we have put forward which have been ignored," Mr Black said.

AZ consulted workers and union officials for 90 days earlier this year over the changes, which came into effect on July 1. According to the firm: "The changes to UK pension benefits will ensure that ongoing pension provision is sustainable, equitable and affordable."

AZ has also said that it is reviewing the information provided by GMB union resulting from the ballot and that it remains committed to providing a very competitive level of pension benefit and that the changes made ensure all employees continue to have access to pension arrangements that compare favourably to other organisations in the UK.

The company stated that it would take all necessary steps to ensure business operations are not affected and that supply of medicines to patients is maintained.

17th August 2010

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