Miners: we have been robbed of half our pensions

Former Thoresby Colliery miner Michael Newton, a Nottinghamshire rep forf the The UK Mineworkers Pension Association for justice and Fair Play Association.
Former Thoresby Colliery miner Michael Newton, a Nottinghamshire rep forf the The UK Mineworkers Pension Association for justice and Fair Play Association.

An angry group of ex-miners who say they have been robbed of half their pension fund are urging Mansfield and Ashfield workers from the industry to join their national campaign.

Ex-miners around the UK say it is a great injustice that their pension fund worth billions has been siphoned off by successive governments.

Under a deal made in the 1990s, the Government agreed to underwrite the pension, but in return take a huge chunk of the surplus each year, with £750 million paid into Government coffers last year alone.

The UK Mineworkers Pension Association for justice and Fair Play Association is campaigning to get the 50/50 split of mineworkers pension surplus renegotiated.

The Mineworkers Pension Scheme said Trustees are committed to continuing to seek opportunities to improve the position for members.

Former Thoresby Colliery miners Michael Newton and Charles Chiverton are official reps for the Nottinghamshire with around 50,000 former mineworkers affected.

Michael Newton, 52 said: “In real terms our pensions have been slashed in half by successive governments - we have been financially penalised all the way to the grave.”

“We are all in this together whether it is UDM or NUM - we are all affected by this. I want as many ex miners to sign up our campaign as possible.”

He estimates the current pension fund of £11.2 billion has been whittled down by at least £8 billion over the years.

He told Chad: “In 1987 they took a ’pensions holiday’ and British Coal and the Government stopped paying some £870 million for three years.

“There were more pension holidays in 1991 and 1994. They creamed off a surplus of over £5 billion.

“The industry was privatised in 1994 and they said it was in our best interest for the pension to be ring fenced .

“There would be a 50/50 split in recognition of the scheme being government guaranteed.

“The true motive was to take our surplus.

“It was a very low risk pension for them - a lot of retired miners don’t live a long time so they got a good deal.”

Charles Chiverton, 53 a miner for 27 years, added:”I am furious there is a growing realisation we have been treated disgustingly, duped and dishonoured.

“The main beneficiaries of our pension fund since it was ring fenced has been the Government. We should not have to go cap in hand to them.

“We want to regain control of our pension scheme back from the faceless ministers who are robbing our scheme and our benefits which we have paid into all our working lives.

“No stone will be left unturned no faceless politician or minister will get in our way. It’s time to stand together one last time.”

Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale said he supported the campaign ‘100 per cent” and described the amount of surplus given back to the Government as guarantor as a scandal.

He said: The Government has no right to hang on to hundreds of millions of pounds .

“It needs to be given back to these pensioners who worked in the industry.

He said the agreement was legally binding, but added:

“During the Labour Government we sent a lot of money to the coalfield communities.

“We got round it by taking many millions and spent it for the benefit of mining communities with the Coalfield Regeneration Trust.

“A lot of these men suffered ill health and some of the money goes to the NHS for their treatment. Some went to subsidising pits to keep them open and to compensation schemes.

“Although we improved things a lot it wasn’t enough.

“The surplus is phenomenal I am not in favour of the Government keeping a penny.”

For further information visit the UK miners pension scheme, for justice & fair play association, on Facebook.

Dan Whincup, Scheme Secretary, Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme said: “We are in dialogue with the ‘UK Mineworkers Pension Scheme for Justice and Fair Play Association’ about their concerns over the 50:50 surplus sharing arrangement between the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme and the Government.

“This arrangement was put in place in 1994 when the coal industry was privatised. At that time, 50 per cent of the surplus from the scheme was used to provide all members with a 7.13 per cent pension increase and 50 per cent was payable to the Government.

“The Government left its 50 per cent share in the scheme as a reserve and this has acted as a buffer to provide protection to members’ benefits ever since.

He said the Government provides a guarantee for the Mineworkers Pension Scheme members that their pensions can never fall in cash terms, even in difficult economic conditions.

Members’ share of surpluses since 1994 mean that pensions are on average 33 per cent higher in real terms than they were in 1994.

He said the Government has received £2,584m from its 50 per cent share of surpluses over the same period.

He added: “Changing the Government guarantee and surplus sharing arrangements requires the joint consent of the Government and the trustees of the scheme.

Previous attempts have been unsuccessful and the trustees have focused on other changes to the advantage of members such as negotiating an additional valuation in 2013 and the extension of the buffer from 2019 to 2029.

“The Trustees are committed to continuing to seek opportunities to improve the position for members.”