High Court ruling will protect the pension benefits of Urenco employees

A ruling from the High Court on 12 June against nuclear fuel company Urenco will protect the pension benefits of 13,000 former employees of British Nuclear Fuels (BNF) and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

The ruling stated that the pension protection provided by the Energy Act 2004 for the former employees can not be amended by their new employer.

The 13,000 employees are now employed at 23 UK sites and by at least nine organisations in the nuclear decommissioning industry.

The case concerned Gregory Mossop, an electrical engineer who had worked at BNF’s Capenhurst plant. He had been a member of the UKAEA Pension Scheme since 1982, and then of the nuclear industry combined pension scheme. In 2008, Mossop was transferred under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Tupe) arrangements from Sellafield to Urenco.

In 2010, the company asked the court to clarify the meaning of the protections in the Energy Act 2004 governing his pension, in particular:

  • How far Urenco was constrained by the act in varying “future service pension benefits”.
  • How far Urenco was constrained by the specific promises in the sale and purchase agreement it had given in relation to the rights of transferring employees.

Urenco argued that those rights existed only at the point of transfer and not later.

The High Court’s Justice Warren answered both questions in favour of Mossop and the union Prospect. He said: “The protection provided by the Energy Act 2004 was intended to be (and was on the facts of this case) of an enduring nature.”

Mike Graham, national secretary at Prospect, said: “Urenco went to the High Court to clarify the nature of the protection provided by the 2004 act.

“This clearly presaged an attempt to break the protection and either reduce benefits, raise pension contributions or both.

“This ruling is a victory for our members, for their pension rights, and above all for fair play.”

We are awaiting comment from Urenco.

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