Warning that retired steelworkers could be plunged into poverty after pension fund restructure

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 5 Oct 2017

Campaigners have warned that hundreds of retired Scunthorpe steelworkers and their families could be plunged into poverty unless changes are made to a deal to restructure the 50-year-old British Steel Pension Fund (BSPF).

The warning from the 4,500-strong British Steel Pension Members Group comes ahead of a mass meeting for the estimated 20,000 local stake-holders at The Baths Hall in Scunthorpe on Tuesday, October 24.

The former scheme, which has more than 125,000 members, will on March 1 next year be handed over to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), an industry-backed lifeboat system focused on the defined benefit pension schemes of failed companies.

Stakeholders in Scunthorpe have been given the options of staying in the PPF-backed scheme, joining a new fund sponsored by Tata Steel UK or transferring their money out.

Under the first two options, pension payments made before 1997 will no longer increase in line with inflation.

The action group fears a drop in payments will leave thousands of pensioners struggling to pay bills, including fees for care homes.

At present, more than 82,000 of the stakeholders are pensioners and 120 are aged over 100 years.

The campaigners have written to the trustees of the new scheme to ask for benefits accrued before 1997 to be updated in line with inflation.

Scunthorpe steel pensioners are being offered a choice of two schemes or to transfer their money out

A plea has also been made to Indian billionaire Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Sons conglomerate which owns Tata Steel, to step in and help the UK pensioners.

Action group leader, retired steelworker Stefan Zaitschenko, 60, said: "We are concerned about the suffering that is is going to come to the older pensioners and their dependants as a result of the changes that are being made. People relying on the pensions have got no other option. They have worked for 30 years or more on the promise that everything would be ok in their retirement.

"I think it would be an ethical gesture that money is found. Ratan Tata is a good man and Tata Sons are good people – they are very philanthropic. I just hope that they can turn around and do what’s necessary.

"I think they should look at the hardship this will cause and do whatever they can to improve their lives going forward."

Under the pension changes agreed by the steel industry’s trade unions, Tata will pay £550 million into the new scheme as well as a 33 per cent equity stake in its UK business.

The BSPF trustees and representatives of the Pension Protection Fund will attend the meeting in Scunthorpe on October 24 to answer questions.

Two-hourly sessions will be run throughout the day at the Baths from 10am until 9pm.

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