AstraZeneca staff vote to strike over pension closure

LONDON (Reuters) - Union members at AstraZeneca have voted to strike over the proposed closure of the pharmaceutical giant’s final salary pension scheme, the GMB union said on Monday. About 500 manufacturing workers were balloted. Just over half voted, of whom 70 percent backed industrial action, the union said.

Local GMB leaders will meet later this week to fix dates for short-term industrial action unless the company returned to the negotiating table with meaningful terms, the union said.

“This clear mandate for a strike in the midst of the current economic circumstances ought to be a wake-up call to Astra Zeneca to resume negotiations with GMB,” said GMB National Officer Allan Black.

About 2,500 workers are affected by the changes, mainly based at Macclesfield in northern England, the company’s second largest site, the union said.

AstraZeneca said it was reviewing the ballot, which it said resulted in about a third of GMB members, and less then 2 percent of its UK employees, voting in favour.

“It is our firm belief that strike action would not be in anyone’s best interests,” it said.

Final salary pensions are becoming a rarity for British workers, as companies move to cheaper defined-contribution schemes that limit their future financial exposure.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Cowell