Row over Scottish and Newcastle pension promises

THOUSANDS of former brewery workers claim that promises over their pensions have been broken.

THOUSANDS of former brewery workers claim that promises over their pensions have been broken.

Fund members in Scottish and Newcastle – S&N – say the Dutch lager maker Heineken has gone back on agreements first made in 2008 when the business was bought.

About 9,500 former brewery workers and other staff have seen their pension benefits dwindle by as much as 7% since the last rise nearly three years ago.

Now a protest group of former workers, publicans and sale staff have called on Parliament to investigate.

They have written to the Commons Select Committee for Business and Innovation with a clear message: “We have been given a raw deal, and treated unfairly and dishonourably.”

Former corporate development director Tom Ward said: “For 40 years Scottish and Newcastle honoured its pension commitments. I am astonished about Heineken’s attitude. To make a U-turn on their very public undertaking to follow S&N’s many decades of company practise in applying inflationary increases to pensions, is deeply offensive”.

The spokesman for the group added that it would only cost between £3 and £5 million pounds to make up the difference in pensions for those affected.

He said: “I am worried about the older pensioners who retired sometime ago on lower incomes. A 7% drop would be difficult for them”.

The dispute stems from the £7.8 billion take over of S&N. The group was carved up, with Heineken taking over the UK business. At the time it had a £40m pension deficit.

Mr Ward said: “This was a tiny sum considering the size of Heineken and they were told about it in great detail when the business was being bought”.

The group said it was informed last year that there would be no discretionary increase, but was not given any explanation why.

A Heineken spokesman said: “The discretionary decision we took last year was based on the outlook for our fund at that time, and will be reviewed again later this year. We have put in place a strong recovery plan for our pension fund, including significant cash injections peaking at £61m per annum in 2014”.

“Of course we understand the strength of feeling among those who did not receive pension increases this year.

“We are happy to continue a dialogue with them and, of course, justify our actions to any relevant body who wised to review the matter.”

The brewer’s pensioners group has also written to the biggest union in Britain, Unite, appealing for help.

 

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