Jack Jones looks at the campaign by former Visteon pension scheme members to get Ford to compensate them for losses incurred when the fund entered the PPF
The long-running campaign by a group of ex-Ford workers to get compensation for losses to the pensions caused by the collapse of Visteon appears to be drawing to a successful conclusion. Almost 1,400 employees who transferred when Visteon was spun off from Ford 15 years ago had claimed they had been misadvised when moving their pension rights.
The Visteon pension scheme entered Pension Protection Fund (PPF) after the car parts manufacturer collapsed five years ago last week, with a £350m shortfall in the fund. Campaigners said Ford had given guarantees that the pension rights in the Visteon scheme would match those of workers that remained in the Ford scheme.
On entering the PPF, however, many members saw benefits reduced, with around 80 hit by the cap on PPF benefits. Members organised themselves into the Visteon Pension Action Group (VPAG) and launched a campaign to get the firm to honour this commitment.
The campaign won the backing of constituency MPs who organised an all-party parliamentary group to put pressure on Ford to honour its "moral responsibility" to its former employees. It was also taken up by Unite, which backed a legal case which is due to be heard later this year.
But last week all sides hammered out a settlement which will see the company top up workers' PPF compensation to 100% of the benefits accrued when working for Ford and avoid a court case if accepted.
The compromise does not cover benefits accrued while working for Visteon, and leaves the PPF footing the vast majority of the bill. But it has been endorsed by VPAG and Unite and, if accepted by a sufficient number of ex-scheme members will see compensation paid within months. Two campaigners tell their story.
Former Ford and Visteon worker Paul Bailey
"It was not a complete surprise when Visteon went under. The company had always been presented to us as this wonderful global corporation with 60,000 employees and a multi-billion dollar turnover. But the bottom line for Visteon UK was turning a deeper and deeper red and the pension scheme was getting into a bigger and bigger hole.
"At first people were confused and angry and very frustrated. We were reassured by the union we would get 90% of our pensions through the PPF, but obviously you lose some indexation and the Ford/Visteon scheme was 1/52 so a lot of people had pretty good pensions and around 80 people had their compensation capped.
"The protest started with a very small group of people from the Basildon plant, but with the help of the scheme trustees we began to link up with other groups in Belfast and South Wales.
"The first thing that happened was that quite a large group of people turned up on Unite's doorstep and made a lot of noise. They needed a bit of pushing, but the national officer Roger Maddison took the time to go through all the paperwork people had collected and said ‘you guys have got a case - when you were promised by Ford life-time mirrored terms and conditions that was a strong and clear commitment'.
"The director of legal affairs Howard Beckett took on the case and has been driving this really hard, both as a moral issue and because he believes there is a strong case.
"At the same time one of our guys got in touch with Eric Pickles who...
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