The Pensions Debate
Update on "progress" in 2013.
It has been nearly a year since the last of these updates – things move slowly in the world of pensions......
Quietly in the background Peter Weston, Peter Alsbury and Godrey Thomas, with some assistance from myself, have been trying to push things on regarding the pension scheme situation.
Therefore this Update gives an overview from each of them about various initiatives.
Message from Peter Weston
Firstly a big thank you for all of you who wrote to the Trustee chair requesting an increase to the pre 1997 element of your pension. Whilst it did not achieve and immediate result it brought the matter to his attention.
For the past year I have been plodding my way through the Atos (Sema) pension scheme. It takes a fair amount of time as the Trustee takes their time to reply even to the most simple of questions and their replies sometimes give rise to further questions.
I have now reached the stage of putting a complaint to the Pension Ombudsman regarding Atos/Trustees failure to honour their commitment to eliminate the deficit by March 31st 2013. This complaint is being made against both the Trustee and Atos.
My second complaint is that the removal of the discretionary increases clause in 2008 breached the Trust Deed. I have been through the IDRP process with the Trustee and I am now approaching Atos This is a bit complicated so I will not bore you with the details. It is my intention to make a complaint to the Ombudsman on this issue as well.
It appears that the chair of the Trustee has left Atos. He is still the chair of the Trustee Company. He appears to be unwilling to release his email address- well at least to me! If you need to contact him the you will need to send a letter to Triton Square or Richard Harris (richard.harris @ xafinityconsulting.com). He is the Trustee Secretary and is reliable. He will forward a letter to John Smith. It is worth bearing in mind that Margaret Kaleher is the Scheme Administrator and she represents Atos and not the Trustee. The Trustee (at least their lawyers) appears to draw a sharp line between themselves and Atos.
If any of you have a friend who is an actuary and feel able to ask him/her a couple of questions that would be most helpful.
That’s about it for now. I will produce an update on my progress towards the end of the year. I think that it is worth writing every year to the chair of the Trustees - if nothing else to let the Trustee know that we are still here!
Message from Godfrey Thomas
In January 2009 a small group of Sema pensioners and a deferred pensioner met with the Trustee, representatives of Atos and lawyers to discuss the freeze on pre-1997 pensions. We wanted to express our concerns, to investigate whether there might be circumstances in which an increase might be forthcoming and to maintain communication channels. Whilst the meeting was reasonably friendly in tone, neither the trustee nor the company gave any comfort as to the possibility of any increase in pre-1997 pensions.
Earlier this year we requested a follow-up meeting but this was rejected on the grounds that there had been no significant change in the situation since the 2009 meeting. It is fortunate for those whose pensions are primarily or wholly based on pre-1997 employment that inflation has been low for a considerable time.
Perhaps if we were able to present cases of real hardship caused by the pension freeze we might be able to secure a rise at least for the individuals effected.
If anyone feels that they are in such a situation and are prepared to put themselves forward as a test case, then we would be happy to pursue it with the trustee.
Update from Peter Alsbury
The one thing that I have done recently was to twice write to Thierry Breton (Chairman & CEO of Atos). No response from him - this is not unusual in French bureaucrat practice - but interestingly Peter W reports that the letters were forwarded to UK management. I intend to write again towards the end of the year.
I also intend to raise another complaint with the Trustee arguing that the freeze is discriminatory and hence illegal under UK law. I aim to do this also before the end of the year.
Additions from Steve
We are not alone as pensioners in challenging companies and trustees about similar issues.
Research shows there are legal firms specialising in pensions who issue regular bulletins when test cases get taken to court. For instance a case recently went to the Appeal Court about misleading information in a pension scheme booklet, but was unfortunately upheld.
This was similar to our Sema pension scheme booklet, the last in 1998, which stated that pensions would be increased by inflation up to a maximum of 5%. No mention of the pre-97 increase part being discretionary by the company.
Maybe also worth a mention but back in 2008 Peter Alsbury raised a formal complaint claiming that it was illegal for Atos to modify the pension scheme rules and to freeze our pre-1997 pension. He took the case to the Pensions Ombudsman but received no joy.
Please update me with any changed email addresses and details of other pensioners and deferred members who may like to be on the mailing list.