“A grave injustice”: Senedd demands UK honours pension commitments to Cardiff steelworkers

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Notes that former Allied Steel and Wire (ASW) workers have still not received their full pensions, despite a compensation deal reached in 2007 with the UK Government and almost 14 years after a change in UK law.
  • Notes that under the compensation deal, workers were promised the same treatment as workers and pension scheme holders under the pension protection fund and financial assistance scheme.
  • Notes that under law changes since 2004, workers under the pension protection fund and financial assistance scheme are entitled to be paid up to 90% of their pension contribution value. However, contributions paid prior to 1997 are not inflation proofed.
  • Regrets the financial hardship this has caused to former ASW workers and calls on the UK Government to honour the spirit of the commitments the previous UK Government made to ASW workers.

Basic fairness and justice

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) – who played a prominent role in a similar campaign for Visteon pensioners – said successive UK governments have treated ASW pensioners with “contempt, basic ignorance or silence”. While this isn’t a devolved issue, she hoped that if it were the ASW pensioners wouldn’t have found themselves in this situation.

As a bit of background, when ASW collapsed and was bought by Celsa in 2002, the pension fund was found to have a £21million shortfall. The buy-out provided no guarantee that the new owner would make that back up and most workers were offered 40% of their expected pensions.

Despite changes to the law:

“…..the ASW workers have not been given a fair share or fair treatment by successive UK governments, despite the hard work of campaigners. So, the situation remains today that campaigners have not received anywhere close to 90% of the value of their pensions. In fact, the campaigners who are now in the FAS (Financial Assistance Scheme) get no inflation indexation protection for their pre-1997 contributions, they get very little for post-1997 contributions, and have to suffer a payment cap also.”
– Bethan Sayed AM

Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) conceded that UK governments haven’t lived up to their moral obligations to ASW workers, resulting in many – in effect – having their retirement taken away from them. It also isn’t right that affected pensioners didn’t have inflation protection to stop what was left of their pensions being eaten away.

“They simply want fairness”

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) said ASW pensioners were entitled to justice. He blamed the deregulation of the pensions and insurance industries during the 1980s, which allowed companies to opt-out of providing occupational pensions and take surpluses from pension schemes.

“The ASW campaigners are not demanding extras; they simply want fairness. They want their pre-1997 contributions inflation-proofed. They want those in the financial assistance scheme to be treated with the same level of fairness and protection as those in the pension protection fund, and %a removal of payment caps and restitution so that they can have what was taken from them returned….Plaid Cymru’s been fighting for justice for these workers and others for years, as we’ve heard. Those were the comments of Owen John Thomas in 2003. He was still at it in 2007….”
– Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West)

A really grave injustice

From the outset, the Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower) said ASW workers have faced “a really grave injustice”.

The Welsh Government was happy to support the ASW campaign even if the wider issue of pensions was non-devolved and the Minister listed a number of Welsh Government interventions since 2002.

“….the Welsh Government does, once more, urge the UK Government to reconsider the concerns raised by financial assistance scheme members and their representatives to achieve a rightful and positive outcome. And I am pleased to give that commitment today that I will raise this matter directly with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury when we meet in early February, and I will certainly reflect all of the comments that we’ve had within this debate this afternoon.”
– Finance Minister & Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans

While there was a recorded vote, all AMs voted in favour of the motion.

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