QinetiQ, the defence technology company, has announced a new employee engagement plan that will effectively result in the company no longer recognising trade unions from 31 March.

It is instead creating an Employee Engagement Group that will be a forum through which all employees can express their views.

"The new Employee Engagement Group will have real powers and budget to act as a representative body for providing recommendations and consultation in the future," a QinetiQ spokesperson said.

It added: "That will still see the unions continuing to represent employees on an individual basis."

The company said that the group has been set up in response to employee feedback.

It is understood that only around 30 percent of the 5,500-strong workforce are union members, and that employees generally felt that the existing voluntary collective bargaining did not represent that majority opinion in the business.

However, trade union Unite accused QinetiQ of "union-busting".

Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary, said: "Unite will not take this lying down. QinetiQ workers want union recognition and they will fight to retain it.

"For our members this is vitally important as they know that without the union in their workplace, their employer will be able to dictate terms and conditions – this is clearly unacceptable."

Other unions at QinetiQ include Public and Commercial Services (PCS), Prospect and GMB.

The unions will be meeting with QinetiQ's senior managers on Thursday (23 February) to try to persuade them to reverse their decision.

They will also raise the issue with new defence secretary Philip Hammond and at a parliamentary lobby of MPs on defence issues on 20 March.