Pension Questions

Meeting Reminder 
2pm, Weds 10th September: Meeting between ex-SPCK staff and suppliers. See the Diary page for details…

With the attempt to file SSG for bankruptcy in the USA having been unceremoniously thrown out “with prejudice” by the Houston Bankruptcy Courts, the three new companies (Durham Shop Management Company, Chichester Shop Management Company and ENC Management Company) now — as previously suspected — appear to be nothing more than a quasi-legal smokescreen behind which the Brewers/SSG were (and still are, by the look of things) attempting to evade their responsibilities as employers (not to mention in other areas — for a reminder of what they said when the bankruptcy filing was announced see SSG files for bankruptcy).

In view of this, it’s probably the right time to revisit our earlier questions about current and former employees’ pensions, and the key question seems (superficially at least) fairly simple: what, exactly, is going on? 

Most information coming through is not first hand, but I’m told that the Church of England Pensions Board is either unwilling or unable to recognise the three new companies for pension purposes. When this takes or took effect is unclear, which leaves at least some current staff with serious concerns about their AVCs (Additional Voluntary Contributions) — if the money is being deducted from wages, where is it going?

I’ve also been told that those who have left the Brewers’ employment have still not heard about their pensions despite assurances that investigations are in progress.

When we asked what was happening back at the end of July asingleblog summed up the situation like this:

Moorepay pays current employees. A call to them revealed that when it comes to taxes and pensions, all they do is advise the employer how much they should pay to HMRC and the CofE Pensions Board.

Past and present staff need to take some action now. Should the Brewers pull the plug on their new companies, staff will need to know exactly what is owed to them even before they go to the union.

and further:

SPCK paid into a private pension fund for its booksellers. Booksellers had the option of “topping up” those pensions from their salaries. Many did. The Brewer’s promised to keep up the employer contributions. Those who topped up had the top up taken from their salaries. Seems that their “top ups” and their employer’s contribution has gone AWOL. To use a British expression that I’m sure you know well, “we was robbed”.

You’ll find more discussion of the issues in a couple of asingleblog’s earlier posts and in the accompanying comments:

The next question, I guess, is how to persuade the relevant authorities to take action? Suggestions or more information, anyone?

I have invited the Church of England Pensions Department to comment on the situation: if and when I receive a reply I’ll post it here…

– Phil Groom

6 responses to “Pension Questions

  1. The Pensions Advisory Service can be contacted on 0845 6012923 or via any of the links on this page.

    Certainly my understanding is that if you’re having AVCs deducted but not paid over, this may, possibly, be fraudulent on behalf of your employer, but I am really not sure.

  2. Have ascertained that Durham and Chichester shop workers are no longer eligible for CofE pensions. Seen the letter.

  3. Should current and past workers want to contact their union they should do so. TUPE states that enployers have to ensure that a pension fund is available to workers – even if it is a different pension fund. It’s actuallly over to those workers who care.

  4. I’ve just had a reply from the C-of-E Pensions Board to say that my contributions from SSG were paid up to my leaving in August 2007. I suspect that if this is the case it is because SSG were still employing PW Business at that point to handle their accounts and PWB played a straight bat. I think it would be sensible for everyone to contact the Pensions Board and check the state of their pension.

  5. I have heard from the Pensions Board who state “We are in the process of trying to obtain information from St Stephen the Great in respect of all the members who have left employment, so that we can reconcile contributions received against those we have calculated to be due”.

  6. Pingback: Still in the Dark over Pensions « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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