UK - Unions have warned it was just the beginning of the pension dispute after government rejected calls to compensate the 85,000 people who lost several billion pounds when their pension schemes went under.
A report by parliamentary ombudsman Ann Abraham claimed workers had been misled about the security of their DB pension schemes by “inaccurate, incomplete, unclear and inconsistent” information provided by a number of government bodies, including the Department for Work and Pensions.
Abraham also called on the government to consider restoring the core pension and non-core benefits to those categories of scheme members covered by her report. Abraham alleged the maladministration uncovered in the report “caused injustice to a large number of people who, as a result, lost the opportunity to make informed choices about their future”.
But government widely rejected the findings, and said the report provided no proper basis for concluding that the alleged maladministration, which it denied, would have had any material impact on the outcomes for those individuals affected.
Minister for Pensions Reform Stephen Timms [pictured] said said it would be a “huge and unsustainable leap of logic” to dump such fees on taxpayers.
Pensions specialist Dr Ros Altmann added her voice to the debate and said: “If something is not safe, the government should not tell us that it is. If Government assurances of safety turn out to be false – due to unforeseen circumstances – then it must quickly compensate those who have been damaged.”
The ombudsman’s report can only make recommendations to government, who are not required by law to react. But workers union Community said it would fight government all the way to the courts and added: “This is not the end of the line.”
Both Community and Amicus are embroiled in a legal battle against the UK Government for the alleged failure to adequately implement the European Insolvency Directive, which should have been implemented by 1983, said Community spokesperson Ken Penton.
“The ombudsman only looked at what government did in last 10 yeas, but root of this is successive government’s failure to implement the European insolvency directives properly,” he said.
Article 8 of that directive stated government had to put measures in place to protect workers pension in the event of their employer’s insolvency, and Penton is positive about the outcome of the court case, due next spring .
“Recently the European commission whose directive it was, stated in their written evidence they agreed with us and supported our case, and said the UK government had not implemented the directive properly.”
Penton concluded: “The last hope for justice for all those 85 000 people is us winning the court case next spring.” By Damian Clarkson
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