£70M short­fall for scheme

CALMAC AND UNIONS SET FOR CRI­SIS TALKS AS ‘BLACK HOLE’ IS RE­VEALED IN OP­ER­A­TOR’S PEN­SION FUND

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

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

Martin Dorch­ester

(Pic­tured)

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