Wire firm workers in dark over fate of pension

TWO Yorkshire MPs have told the Pensions Regulator that he must act immediately to ensure that more than 500 former wire company workers don’t suffer financial hardship.

Barnsley Central Labour MP Dan Jarvis and Craig Whittaker, the Conservative MP for Calder Valley, are due to meet the Pensions Regulator, Stephen Soper, in September because they want to know why it has taken more than two years to complete the investigation into the fate of the pension scheme at Carrington Wire, in Elland, West Yorkshire.

According to Mr Jarvis, the uncertainty caused by the Pensions Regulators’ failure to complete its investigation is causing distress to Yorkshire people who could lose tens of thousands of pounds.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

There are fears the pension scheme could be placed into the Pension Protection Fund. If this happens, some Carrington Wire pension scheme members believe they could end up with just 70 per cent of their pension.

Around 500 members of the Carrington Wire pension scheme want the Pensions Regulator to take action to save their pensions.

Carrington Wire closed with the loss of more than 80 jobs in 2010. Russian parent company Severstal, a multi-national conglomerate headed by chief executive Alexey Mordashov, said the decision was due to a contraction in the steel wire market.

In 2011, representatives of former employees at Carrington Wire said they were seeking talks with Severstal to ensure guarantees were put in place to safeguard payments being made into the company’s defined benefit pension scheme.

In 2010, Mr Whittaker wrote to the Pensions Regulator, calling for an investigation into the position of the Carrington Wire pension scheme, after Carrington Wire was sold out of the Severstal group.

Last year Mr Jarvis contacted Steve Webb, the Minister of State for Pensions, to express concern about the time it was taking to complete the investigation into the transfer of the Carrington Wire pension fund. Mr Jarvis also wanted to know what protections were in place to ensure that pension commitments were honoured in cases like Carrington Wire. Mr Jarvis plans to meet Mr Soper and Mr Webb, along with other MPs, to express his concerns.

Mr Jarvis said yesterday: “The Carrington Wire case has dragged on for too long and many people have been forced to live with a great deal of uncertainty in their lives. There are complex and important questions that need answering and we are now very much up against the clock.

“I am pleased that the Pensions Regulator has agreed to meet with me and I am confident that, working together, we can get to the bottom of this particular case once and for all. It is important that we do so – not just for those directly affected by the fall-out from the Carrington Wire case, but from other similar cases.”

A spokesman for the pension scheme members said: “For more than two years, the Pensions Regulator has left our members in crisis at a vulnerable time of their lives and we find the situation intolerable.”

A spokesman for the Pensions Regulator said yesterday: “We understand the concerns of the members of this scheme. We take our statutory objective to protect members’ benefits seriously, but the law restricts us from providing ongoing commentary on our investigations. To do so could restrict the regulators’ ability to take action in this matter.”

The Yorkshire Post understands that the investigation into Carrington Wire is complex, because it involves a company based outside the European Union. It is anticipated that the regulator will make further comment in the coming months. A Severstal spokesman declined to comment.