Pension blow to Newsquest staff

More than 9,000 staff at regional newspaper publisher Newsquest Media Group face receiving a diminished final pension after company bosses told staff the scheme was suffering a £65m deficit.

In a letter sent out last Friday afternoon, staff were told they would have to increase their contributions to the fund from six to 10 per cent over the next four years to receive the same final pension. The company has pledged to contribute 12 per cent of what members put in, a level of return the union claims is significantly lower than that of other newspaper publishers.

Three other options for staff were laid out, including paying less but receiving a reduced pension, accepting a money-purchase scheme or leave the pension scheme altogether. The NUJ demanded “immediate talks at national level” and said there would be a meeting of the Newsquest-wide group chapel in the coming weeks.

NUJ northern organiser and former union president Chris Morley said: “My gut feeling is that this is another company that is looking at the promise it made to its staff over final salary [pension] schemes and saying ‘now we want to walk away from those policies’. They’re saying you can keep [the final scheme], but you will have to pay through the nose for it.

“If this was to be borne out in full it would make final salary pensions almost totally unattractive – and I’m not sure that that might actually be what Newsquest wants to achieve.”

Newsquest, which is owned by US media giant Gannett and is Britain’s second-largest regional newspaper company with a total weekly circulation of 9.5 million, began its threeyearly evaluation of the company pension scheme in April, though has yet to announce the results.

In a “statistical report” of its titles dated 18 June, Gannett said: “Classified results at Newsquest UK were significantly better than in the US community newspapers.”

Under law the pension fund is owned and controlled by its trustees.

In the letter to staff they said: “We very much regret that the company is making the changes proposed. However they recognise that they must be willing able to pay the costs of the pension scheme to be secure.”

Newsquest Media Group chief executive Paul Davidson was unavailable for comment, but the company released a statement from Andrew White, group pensions manager, which said: “I can confirm that News quest has started a period of consultation about proposed changes to its pension scheme designed to establish it on a more sustainable basis.”

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