Joan McAlpine MSP has taken up the case of local Chapelcross workers whose severance payments could be cut as a result of the recently passed UK Enterprise Bill.
The Bill has moved Magnox back into the public sector – but it also caps the exit payment of public sector workers.
And while it was supposed to affect “fat cats” only – the trade unions say that middle ranking and even some lower paid workers could be hit – particularly if pensions are taken into account in calculating an pay offs.
Ms McAlpine was alerted by constituents and wrote to Anna Soubray MP the UK Enterprise Minister and David Mundell the local MP and Secretary of State for Scotland. She has also spoken to local and national representatives of Prospect, the trade union that represents many of the affected workers.
Ms McAlpine said: “This change in the law is terribly unfair to people who have planned their future around a guaranteed exit payment which could now be significantly reduced. It is only a few years since workers were given assurances about their pensions – now the rug is being swiped from under their feet.”
The MSP said it was very disappointing that a last ditch attempt by the SNP and Labour to exempt nuclear industry workers and lower paid workers from the changes was defeated by Conservative MPs when the Bill passed its final reading in The Commons.
She said: “It was very disappointing that at the last stage of the bill, amendments exempting Magnox and protecting lower paid employees were rejected by the government. It was even more disappointing that our local MP David Mundell voted against these amendments despite the direct effect on Chapelcross workers. While he is bound by the ministerial code I would have expected him to persuade his fellow Tory ministers to accept the amendments to help his constituents.”
Ms McAlpine has spoken to local Prospect representative Scott Muir and national pension officer Neil Walsh who are both concerned about the effect of the new law on their members.
However Prospect are now pressing for ministers to help Chapelcross workers using secondary legislation.
The MSP added: “It seems there may still be hope - if as many people as possible press the UK Government to treat Magnox workers fairly using secondary regulations.”
The Scottish Government has sought clearance from the UK to take Scottish public sector workers out of the UK bill.
Ms McAlpine said:
“Magnox remains a UK company and because pensions, energy and employment matters all remain in the control of Westminster I expect we do not have the powers to intervene here in Scotland. Nevertheless I have written to Scottish ministers to ask
whether there is anything we can do to help.”