Enterprise Bill

Written evidence submitted by John Ridd (ENT 17)

Re; Proposed cap on terms and conditions under the ‘Enterprise Bill’ affecting PRIVATE sector workers.

Dear Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen

I am writing to provide a submission regarding Magnox Ltd private sector workers being directly affected the proposed cap on redundancy and pension payments for supposed public sector workers in the Enterprise Bill that will shortly come before the Public Bill Committee scrutiny stage.

I, like everyone I know, am totally against a Bill being raised to change the agreed terms, conditions and pension provisions of private sector workers which goes against past promises made to electricity supply workers by previous government administrations.

The scope of companies to be capped, it is submitted, is a hit and miss affair with some private companies included and others not. Also, the fact that some publicly owned (in whole or part) banks, media companies, MPs and many others, avoid the compulsory cap is incredibly inconsistent and grossly unfair.

I have worked for Magnox Ltd (and its predecessors for over 35 years). This extends from the days as a public company (then the CEGB), through the privatisation of the Electricity Industry to its current position as a private limited company. In order to secure an unprotested privatisation of the electricity industry, a previous Conservative government guaranteed my terms and conditions as a Protected Person under the Energy Act 1988. Since then I have been a private sector worker.

In the early 2000s our severance terms, including the right to get a pension from the age of 50, if made redundant, was agreed with the company in order to secure the services of my colleagues and myself until the planned end of generation and defueling of the Magnox reactors. If this guarantee had not been in place many of us would have left the industry, which would have led to the very early closure of the Magnox stations throughout the country (with the consequent issue of generation shortages and a loss of income to the then government). I am very disappointed that now that we have kept our part of the bargain, that the government is now looking to renege on the agreements protected by previous Conservative administrations in law to protect electricity supply industry workers from subsequent unscrupulous employers. In other circumstances, breaking the terms and conditions of a contract, including employment, would be actionable in the courts. The fact that the present government is proposing to hide behind statutory powers to carry out a civil wrong is unconscionable.

Like most of my colleagues, I am not looking to retire early and would still be prepared to carry on working to my present contracted retirement age if the work were available. We are not looking to make lots of money for nothing (public sector ‘fat cats’), but object to the government breaking their word on previous undertakings, particularly at a time of a major reorganisation and uncertainty within the industry.

If Magnox Ltd remains within the group intended for inclusion under the cap, it is likely that it will drive away the more experienced staff whilst they are still young enough (many in their late 40s or early 50s) to get another job with good terms and conditions. This could lead to a knowledge drain from the industry, ultimately causing an increase in the cost of getting the Magnox Sites into "Care and Maintenance". The inclusion of the employees of Magnox Ltd makes no business or common sense and the tax payer will be the losers from this action, as well as the staff that have been loyal and always done the right thing as part of our "hard working family society".

It appears that the legislature in Northern Ireland is sensitive to this issue as they have just refused consent for the exit cap being extended to affect them on the 7th December 2015.

I am writing to you to ask that you amend the proposed Bill so that private companies in the nuclear estate, such as Magnox Ltd, involved in decommissioning sites will be excluded from the scope of the proposal.

Thank you for your time in anticipation of your consideration of this matter,

February 2016

 

Prepared 11th February 2016