NUJ: Newsquest confirms plans to close pension scheme

Newsquest has confirmed plans to close its final salary pension scheme next March, the National Union of Journalists said today.

According to the union, chief executive Paul Davidson gave notice in letters to individual scheme members that Newsquest would stop further final salary benefits accruing for existing members of the scheme as of 31 March, 2011.

Press Gazette contacted Davidson’s office this afternoon for comment but he was not available.  Numerous attempts to talk to him – on a range of subjects – have proved fruitless.

The NUJ first brought Newsquest’s plan to scrap its final salary pension scheme to light in August when it called on the publisher to reconsider its proposal and it accused it of breaking promises.

The union then pleaded with Newsquest later that month to talk to it about the pension scheme plans on a national level rather than through local official channels.

Both requests seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The NUJ claimed today that a new draft valuation of the fund drawn up for the company purported to show an overall deficit of £123 million.

However, the NUJ said its request to the company and pension scheme trustees to make this draft available were refused ahead of its official publication next year – after the scheme has closed.

Chris Morley, Northern & Midlands Organiser, said: “From the answers we obtained to detailed and challenging questions put to the company in the consultation over closure of scheme, it was patently obvious that bosses were hell-bent on swinging the axe.

“I believe the decision has been taken as a result of arrogant ignorance. We firmly believe that given the will, a way could have been found to retain the best elements of a defined benefit pension scheme, not just for those currently in it, but all those who have been excluded from it over the last few years.

“Now that Paul Davidson has made the board’s position clear, the focus clearly falls on the inferior benefit left in its place. This is a profitable company that can afford to do much better and the NUJ will be pushing it all the way on this.”

News on the fate of the pension scheme comes as two separate strikes are taking place at Newsquest businesses against its continued pay freeze.

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