WORKERS from United Utilities are planning to strike later this month over a pension dispute.

Water workers who repair pipes, treat water waste and resolve public queries will be among those taking action next Friday, March 16 and Monday, March 19.

The strike has been called over United Utilities' plans to impose changes to a staff pension scheme from April 1, which union bosses claim will reduce members' pensions significantly – as much as £10,000 per year of guaranteed income in retirement for younger members of staff.

But bosses at the water giant say the projected cost of pensions is predicted to rise to 'unsustainable levels'.

Vic Walsh, regional organiser of Unison North West, said: "United Utilities are making an unnecessary and unjustified grab for the retirement incomes of their workers.

"The pension scheme is in good financial health and there is no need for these changes to be made. It is not too late for management to see sense and stop the strike action by halting their plan."

The strike action will impact the whole of the north west region, with more than 400 Unison members taking part, alongside members from other unions.

United Utilities are said to have paid out more than £1.25billion to shareholders over the past five years, with Steve Mogford, chief executive, receiving £2.8million last year.

A spokesman for United Utilities said: "We are disappointed that Unite, Unison and Prospect have asked their members to walk out for two days. "Around a third of employees are involved, and we have plans to keep our services running as normal.

"Many companies have found that final salary pension schemes have become much more expensive to fund and United Utilities is no exception. The costs of keeping our company scheme open are predicted to keep on rising to unsustainable levels.

"The unions helped to shape the final version of the new scheme. Rather than scrap the defined benefit scheme as planned, we agreed to introduce a hybrid scheme, which will cost us considerably more.

"So, we have made considerable concessions already and hope that the unions will show a similar desire to compromise."

There are plans for a picket line at United Utilities headquarters at Lingley Mere, Warrington.