How do you turn a faltering enterprise into an attractive investment? Sadly, yet another company is answering this question by shaking off responsibility for its employees’ pensions.
Bernard Matthews is a struggling turkey firm, and its private equity owners, Rutland Partners, are trying to come up with a rescue plan. But it doesn’t seem to include helping employees.
The plan hatched is to sell off the business , but dump the bill for workers’ pensions on the Pension Protection Fund. The Work and Pensions committee has heard from an accountant how the deal planned will “extract maximum cash from the company”. By contrast, the terms of a pension bail out means some workers’ retirement pots could be cut by 10 per cent.
The Pension Protection Fund is supposed to be a last resort, ensuring people’s savings don’t disappear in the event of insolvency, funded by a levy on other pension schemes.
But this is not the first time that current and future pensioners have lost out to the greed of company owners. Phillip Green’s deal to dump the pension deficit of the department store BHS is still under investigation by the Pensions Regulator and the Insolvency Service. Now the Serious Fraud Office is also asking questions.
How is this being allowed to happen? Too busy with Brexit, Theresa May’s chaotic government has offered no answers to pensioners that are losing out. Such inaction undermines any claim the Tories have to be a party of working people. It is up to Labour to fight to ensure that promises made to employees who have paid in all their working lives are not undermined by unscrupulous employers.
That’s why I am calling for the Pensions Regulator to intervene to stop the so-called “pre-package administration deal” made over Bernard Matthews, and ensure that the £20m pension deficit is met from the £39m Rutland Partners are expecting to receive.
But fixing this one deal is not enough. We must put an end to the dumping of defined benefit pensions once and for all. I am developing proposals to strengthen pension fund governance, and enhance the ability of the Pensions Regulator to intervene earlier in the process of administration. Where there is evidence of foul play, the Regulator should have the powers to force companies to make good on their promises to pensioners, before they profit themselves.
This government is making a mess of pension policy. I believe in a transparent and fair pensions system, that provides dignity in retirement, and will do everything in my power to shine a spotlight on evasion of liabilities, and restore confidence in the pension promise.
I’m starting to wonder what Theresa May is playing at. I was already suspicious when she appointed serial producer of xenophobic comments, Boris Johnson, as Foreign Secretary. Now she’s letting Environment Minister Andrea Leadsom talk to Europe about Brexit.
So, we learn, Leadsom went to a Paris trade fair where – for reasons incomprehensible to this writer – she explained that tea, biscuits and jam will be a key part of British trade plans post-Brexit.
I’ll leave the latter two items for now, but it’s impossible not to comment on the ridiculousness of declaring tea an economy-sustaining export.
First of all: we do not grow tea. Let me revise that: we barely grow tea. Strictly speaking, there is now tea being grown in Britain – the first crop was in 2005 – but we don’t make enough tea for us to drink, let alone to export.
This is for the obvious reason that tea does not take well to wet, cold weather. Indeed, we only have it in the first place because we invaded half the world and stole heaps of the stuff from China and India.
This – surprise! – is where tea is still principally grown today (the four biggest tea-producing countries are China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya. Note how none of those are in Surrey).
But, I hear you moan, haven’t we been profiting off things we nicked for hundreds of years? Isn’t that what the British tradition is based on?
To which I say: save it for the museums, chum. The fact is, the tea we consume is mostly produced and packaged by – gasp! – foreign companies.
True, Twinings and Yorkshire Tea are owned by UK companies: the former by Associated British Foods, the latter by Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate.
But the brands we drink most – PG Tips, Tetley, and Typhoo, whose joint sales make up 64 per cent of the UK market – aren’t British.
PG Tips is owned by Unilever, who are Dutch, and Tetley is wholly owned by Tata Global Beverages, an Indian multinational company with headquarters in Kolkata.
Typhoo is also owned by an Indian company: the Apeejay Surrendra Group, one of the country’s oldest business conglomerates.
What’s a good patriot to do? Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a campaign to encourage people to swap to British brands.
This would, of course, have the slightly pathetic ring of post-9/11 “Freedom Fries” rebranding – but at least it would continue one of the grand old traditions of the empire: taking things from elsewhere, giving them a jingoistic redesign, and making off with as much cash as possible.
Now, if only we could figure out how to market cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, spotted dick, and overcooked vegetables.
I’m off for a brew.
© Source: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/10/why-are-we-letting-private-equity-firms-bargain-workers-retirement-dreams
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