The Northumbrian Water Group is set to be hit with industrial action from trade union members over a long running pension dispute.

The GMB and Unite unions issued the company with a notice of industrial action short of a strike for its members in their northern regions.

This means that from Tuesday next week, GMB and Unite members in Northumbrian Water’s north eastern area will only work their contracted hours and withdraw from overtime, standby working, and covering holiday and sickness.

Speaking to Utility Week, GMB regional officer Maxine Bartholomew said: “We’ve issued the notice to proceed with industrial action. This will be action short of a strike, for now.”

She added the offer that was put forward by Northumbrian, which would affect those with final salary pensions from before 2008, would result in “poorer pensioners” and that “the people who are going to suffer are the long serving people”.

Unite officer Pat McCourt said: “It’s more than 30 years since there has been any industrial action with this company. The company is hell bent on forcing our members into taking this industrial action to protect their pensions and their income in retirement.”

Responding to the notice of industrial action, Northumbrian Water Group wastewater director and chair of the consultation group Richard Warneford said: “Almost all water companies have already made changes to their defined benefits pension schemes. We are in the minority of companies being able to keep a defined benefits scheme open and we are providing our employees with one of the best schemes in the water industry.

“We regret that in response to changes to our final salary pension scheme, some of our union members have decided to take industrial action not involving a strike.

“Our priority will be to safeguard our service to customers and protect the environment and we have contingency plans in place.”

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