Union leader to meet Johnston Press over pension closure

Senior figures from the National Union of Journalists will today meet with managers at Johnston Press for talks about its plans to close its final pension salary scheme.

Johnston Press, which publishes titles including the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, is threatening to close its final salary pension scheme for existing staff at the end of June.

Union officials will meet with representatives from the company, in Edinburgh, to establish what alternatives will be offered to the 960 of Johnston Press’s 6,408 employees affected by the publisher’s plans.

Johnston Press last week blamed rising costs for the planned closure of the scheme. It said the deficit of the final salary scheme, which is already closed to new members, had risen by £72m since 2002 reaching £146m.

Affected staff will be eligible to join a “money purchase scheme” when the final salary scheme closes, the publisher added.

The proposal is subject to a formal two-month consultation period with staff affected and that process begins this week.

Barry Fitzpatrick, of publishing with the NUJ, said: “The final salary scheme was closed to new employees several years ago and now includes only 15 per cent of the total Johnston Press workforce.

“The business model used by Johnston Press in running the company has resulted in its inability to cover the current pension scheme deficit.

“We certainly don’t see why long-serving employees should yet again be expected to pay for what is essentially a failure of management.

“The alternative direct contribution scheme being put forward by the company is far inferior to the final salary scheme, and would require radical improvement to make it in any way attractive to employees.”

Last week, Johnston Press chief executive John Fry, said the main aim of the planned closure was to protect benefits already built up in the final salary section of the plan.

He said: “To do this we need to ensure that the shortfall is controlled and reduced and that we provide a pension arrangement that is competitive and sustainable for the company.”

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