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Worksop miners offered 'take it or leave it' pensions deal

written by Bella Palmer
pensions-deal

Campaigners say that thousands of miners from around Worksop have been left massively out of pocket after the ‘take it or leave it’ deal

At a meeting of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, witnesses told MPs that when the pension fund was set up in 1994, following the privatisation of the mining industry in the UK, the Government forced miners into a 50/50 split in surplus sharing arrangements.

Campaigners say that thousands of miners from around Worksop have been left massively out of pocket after the ‘take it or leave it’ deal - with the Government due to take a further £1.9bn if the matter is not addressed, the inquiry heard.

In real terms, many miners receive an average of £65 per week in pension, plus a £19 per week bonus, although 25 per cent are paid £30 per week – and 10 per cent of former miners are paid as little as £18 per week, many having paid into the pension pot for years.

Responding to questions put by Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, who joined the meeting as a guest, Chris Kitchen from the NUM said that the situation was unique in its terms, with other pension pots for other previously nationalised industries being more beneficial to members.

This is a unique situation as to how this scheme was guaranteed, and this is a good time for the Government to accept that they’ve had enough money out of it, he said.

He said that, on average, the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme lost around 7,000 members per year and that the Government would be the long-term winner when all the scheme members had died.

The hearing heard that, while the Government had benefited to the tune of more that £8bn – when they had initially stated that they would need to withdraw no more than £2bn to ensure the scheme’s future – former mineworkers had not seen returns of 400 per cent on their pensions.

The £8bn figure comes from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme and another pension pot set up for former Coal Board office workers, which campaigners say has also been raided.

This has been a better deal for Government than for members, which is the wrong way round, Mr Kitchen added.

Representatives from the trustees of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme said that the 50/50 split had been forced on members as a ‘political decision’ back in 1987, ’when the decision to privatise the coal industry had already been taken from behind closed doors’.

Chairman of trustees, Chris Cheetham, said they had initially pushed for a 70/30 split in favour of members, but that they ‘were left with no choice but to accept the 50/50 split’.

This is a unique arrangement in the pensions industry, he said. There’s no other situation where sponsors take money out of the scheme - regulations don’t allow it.

For years, campaigners have called for a fairer deal for former mineworkers in Mansfield and Ashfield, as well as around the UK, in terms of pension.

Campaigners claim former miners and their families have been robbed of billions by a string of governments, and are calling for a farer share of the pension pot.

When miners and their families signed up to the pension scheme in 1994, they were told by the government that ‘no more than £2 billion’ was needed from the pot to guarantee its future.

But campaigners have hit out at successive governments after an accepted figure of more than £4.5 billion was taken from the pot over the last 25 years - meaning some miners and their families were not receiving ample funds for their investment.

The inquiry was launched after around 50 MPs wrote letters of concern to committee chairman Darren Jones MP.

In 2019, a 100,000-strong petition was also handed in to Downing Street, calling for a fairer deal by campaigners.

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