Pensions

One of the gains of the settlement to the Manchester dispute last year was that employees who were in the ICL Defined Benefit pension scheme but only entitled to accrue pension at 1/75th of salary per year had this increased to 1/60th (like most of their colleagues). Employees across the rest of the UK are benefiting from this win too, as the company has extended it nationally.
UNITE newsletters have previously reported on the attacks on occupational pensions at other companies. The ICL Defined Benefit scheme covers about one third of Fujitsu Services’ UK employees, and the “ICL Pension Members Committee” (IPMC) is the elected body which keeps an eye on its health.
At its meeting on 26th September, the company’s actuaries gave a presentation about how they see things, based on the actuarial valuation on 1st April 2006. The minutes and slides are available on the IPMC’s CafeVIK community.
It is clear that the company is concerned about cost and about the unpredictability of future costs. If you ask an IPMC member what is going on, you get this statement:
The results of the 2006 valuation have raised a few questions which the IPMC are exploring with the company. There has been a significant cost increase since the 2003 Valuation driven mainly by two factors:
· further increases in longevity beyond those anticipated in the previous actuarial assumptions – people are living longer and continuing to do so
· a more pessimistic outlook on investment returns and on bond pricing
These factors are making it difficult to forecast future costs and create increased risks for the Company and plan members as we need to ensure we have a secure Plan going forward which the Company can afford. As part of our ongoing role in the IPMC we are discussing these concerns and exploring the future.

Most people would agree that it is legitimate that certain aspects of pension management may require confidentiality, for example where they relate to individual matters or are financially sensitive. But beyond that pension schemes are safest when they are as open and transparent to members as possible.
The November IPMC minutes show IPMC member (and UNITE rep) Dave Francis asking for trustee minutes to be made available. After all, the trustees (even the company appointed ones) are legally there to act in the interests of the fund members – nobody else. This would be one positive step, but more are needed.
UNITE in Manchester has asked the company for a briefing on the state of the ICL Defined Benefit pension scheme, so that the union and the company can agree how the union should be involved at an early stage during discussions.
The company agrees that it would be beneficial for UNITE to be kept abreast of the current discussions with the IPMC, in case a proposal requiring formal consultation should arise at a later stage. However, the company currently says it will only do this on a confidential basis and restricted to only two named representatives.
The company proposal presents us with a dilemma.
Refusing the confidentiality restrictions risks being kept in the dark until discussions about the future of our pension fund have progressed – making it harder to influence outcomes. Having a few reps “in the loop” would help us to prepare for any proposals which might emerge later. But the members are the union, so keeping a couple of reps informed is no substitute for keeping members informed and in control. Being party to this confidential information could make it more awkward to campaign on the basis of information we can glean from other sources, or against the secrecy itself.
The Manchester reps would be very interested to know your views on what approach they should take. Please contact Rep Ian Allinson or Rep Lynne Hodge.
On a wider note, UNITE can claim a lot of credit for the recent government announcement that it will reimburse people who lost their pensions when their companies went bust.

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Sign the petition – defend the union

Unite members across Fujitsu Services Limited in the UK are fighting over job security, for union recognition, against victimisation of reps, and over pay and pensions. Members nationally took industrial from 28 February including 15 days of strikes and ongoing action short of strike, after 12 days of local strikes in Manchester.

INDUSTRIAL ACTION IS CURRENTLY SUSPENDED but members have voted by 92% to reject a company offer.

Further information is available here including a downloadable appeal for support leaflet and how to donate to our strike fund.

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