Seven questions for still-silent Paul Davidson to answer about Newsquest's missing pension millions

Proposals to cut back the BBC’s pension scheme have prompted endless debate, consultation and top-level management discussion with staff to find a way forward.

Meanwhile, the UK’s second biggest regional newspaper publisher Newsquest closes its final salary pension scheme to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of existing staff and that is it.

No public comment whatsoever, and as far as we know – no meaningful consultation with staff.

The NUJ has raised a number of questions about this move, as we report today.

And there are a lot more raised by Peter Kirwan, who has investigated the matter for a piece to appear in the September edition of Press Gazette.

So far Newsquest head office has refused to answer any questions, or even engage with journalists outside the organisation on this issue. The standard response as always is that chief executive Paul Davidson is not around, and that no-one else is available for comment.

As I noted in a blog post last week, the last accounts for Gannett UK (Newsquest is a division of US publishing giant Gannett) reveal that the highest paid director (who we assume is Davidson) was paid a salary of £501,234 in 2008, with payments into his pension pot of £38,536.

Part of the reason chief executives get paid the big bucks is because they have to take the public heat when things go awry in their organisations.

So here are some questions Mr Davidson might like to consider answering:

1. Why has the Newsquest Pension fund deficit apparently increased from £42m to £123m in two years?

2. Is it due to the stock-market crash? But won’t values come back by the time the average final-salary scheme member retires?

3. Why is the employer pension contribution offered by Newsquest going to be less than that offered by Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press, which have both already closed their final salary pension funds?

4. Is parent company Gannett taking similar action to curb the retirement payouts of employees on its US titles?

5. Will Newsquest be extending its 60-day consultation, considering the fact that this was started in the holiday period?

6. Will Paul Davidson’s own company pension contributions be affected by the move?

7. Newsquest remains a highly-profitable company, why can’t more of the profits be diverted to plugging the pensions gap?

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