WORKERS at a petrochemicals plant could strike over pension changes.

Staff at Sabic UK, which employs about 600 people on Teesside, will today (Thursday, April 24) start balloting over industrial action.

Workers say they are unhappy at proposed amendments to a final salary pension scheme.

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The firm, which runs the Olefins cracker at Wilton, near Redcar, making products for use in plastic bottles, CDs and tyres, says it has been in discussions with staff over potential changes.

One worker said: “The workforce have been asked on many occasions to increase its pension contributions, which it has done to maintain its final salary scheme.

“But they have been stretched, battered and bruised in recent years by management changes.”

It is also understood staff are upset at job cuts revealed by the firm last year.

The company is shedding 110 posts and about 50 contractor jobs in a restructuring of its European operations.

The changes, which include re-training some workers, are expected to be finalised later this year.

Sabic's North-East operations also include a low density polyethylene plant, which supplies customers across Europe with materials for plastic packaging for food and electrical goods.

Its sister North Tees factory makes parts for medicines, sports equipment and computers.

A spokeswoman said: “The company has received notification from Unite the Union on its intention to ballot for industrial action in relation to proposed changes to the firm's pension scheme.

“It is our objective to implement a competitive and sustainable pension scheme that fits the needs of our employees and the competitiveness of our Teesside operations.

"Our proposed pensions offer includes an 18 per cent employer contribution with flexible options for our employees.

"We believe this offer to be one of the best within our industry and an important step in creating a long-term successful future for our site.

"With this plan, we will implement a competitive, sustainable pension scheme that fits the needs of both our employees and the competitiveness of our Teesside operations

“We very much regret Unite are at present unable to support the proposed changes but we are open for constructive discussions.”