£70M shortfall for scheme
CALMAC AND UNIONS SET FOR CRISIS TALKS AS ‘BLACK HOLE’ IS REVEALED IN OPERATOR’S PENSION FUND
A LOOMING multi-million pound black hole in the CalMac pension scheme will see another round of crisis talks between the ferry operator and the unions.
The Oban Times can reveal that serious discussions will get under way with unions after an independent audit forecast a £70 million shortfall in CalMac’s ‘gold chip’ final salary pension scheme.
The term of the pension scheme has moved from a ten-year funding arrangement to a sixyear term under the new tender conditions issued by the Scottish Government on Monday.
Publicly-funded CalMac and global private company, Serco, are the two bidders for the new Scottish Government six-year £1 billion contract to provide lifeline ferry services to Clyde and Hebridean ports from 2016.
The unions have not ruled out another wave of industrial action to safeguard the existing final salary pension scheme for CalMac’s 1400 workers.
While jobs and the terms and conditions of crew were negoti- ated between CalMac and the unions last month, pensions were not part of the discussion.
The independent audit on the pensions scheme in 2012 revealed a shortfall of £ 32 million, but it was expected that it would be brought to a neutral position within 10 years.
CalMac chief executive, Martin Dorchester, speaking exclusively to the Oban Times, said: ‘There are still tough negotiations with the unions to take place over pensions.
‘We have a good pension scheme and, in the future, it will be a good pension scheme, but in the intervening period there is no doubt things are tough.
‘Issuing a six-year contract will mean we will need to alter our approach to the pension scheme. If we had, say a 10-15 year period, we would be able to get our scheme back to a cost-neutral position.
‘As we have proven time and again, we will look after our people. That is what the pension scheme is there for. We have an ageing staff profile and, while in six years the shortfall in the scheme will be high, in ten years we will be in a secure position.
‘The pension scheme is fully funded by CalMac and is governed by the CMal (the parent company) Trustees Regulator.’
Mr Dorchester explained the shortfall will mean that serious negotiations concerning the continuation of the current final salary scheme will have to take place as a matter of urgency.
Mr Dorchester, who has been in post for three years, said of the recent strike: ‘As far as I am concerned, it was the wrong thing to go on strike, because there are still negotiations to be had. CalMac might not be the future employer.’
However, union representatives from both the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said they would mount a robust defence of the current scheme in negotiations with employers.
RMT union organiser, Gordon Martin, said: ‘Bidders now have to match the CalMac pension scheme and we have commitments of no compulsory redundancies or changes in conditions of service without union agreement. This is an unnecessary tender process and we will be upping the campaign to keep CalMac in the public sector.’
A TSSA spokesman said that changes to the current CalMac scheme would be fought every step of the way.
He said: ‘People have the right to the pension scheme they have joined and are entitled to.
‘Changes to the scheme are a personal attack on members and something we would be likely to go out on strike to maintain.’
We will look after our people. That is what the pension scheme is there for