Japan Tobacco International (JTI), owners of Gallaher’s, have been told to be more generous to its remaining UK workforce as it plans to close its final salary pension scheme.
Unite, the country’s largest union, accused JTI of ‘blatant opportunism’ over the scheme’s closure, which follows the relocation of its manufacturing operation in Northern Ireland to Poland with the loss of 800 jobs.
The union said that there was still a 700-strong workforce in the UK of which 177 were in the final pension scheme due to close on 31 December 2017. Unite has members at the company’s UK headquarters in Weybridge, Surrey and at the distribution centre in Crewe.
Unite is due to meet UK bosses at Weybridge on 12 October and will be asking for a boost to the pensions of the employees, as JTI raked in huge profits of £4 billion in 2016 and paid out £1.6 billion to shareholders.
Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “Our members are rightly furious. Yet again, we have ordinary hardworking people losing out on their security in retirement at the expense of fat cat bosses and massive shareholder pay-outs.
“Our members are set to lose thousands of pounds in retirement income once they are transferred to the new defined contribution (DC) scheme on the 31 December 2017, with a top contribution rate of 16 per cent from the employer, instead of the 46 per cent with the final salary scheme.
“At our meeting on 12 October, we will be asking for more funds to be directed into the workforce’s pensions, given the high profitability of JTI. We think that is only fair.
“Last year, its profits rose substantially, so any pleas of poverty simply don’t ring true.
“Yet again UK workers are given a raw deal with a substantial difference between what was offered to Dutch workers when changes were made to their pension schemes and what the UK workers are being offered.”
Unite is frustrated with the company’s executives at both the JTI headquarters in Switzerland and, ultimately, the executives at the head office in Japan over the company’s steadfast refusal to consider keeping the defined benefits (DB) scheme open or offering adequate compensation for the serious financial uncertainty now being forced to accept the DC pension scheme.
Gallaher’s, founded in Ireland in 1857, and used to manufacture classic UK brands in Northern Ireland, such as Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut, Old Holborn, Senior Service and Hamlet Cigars. JTI purchased former Gallaher Tobacco UK Ltd for £9.6 billion in 2007.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.