20 years on former Allied Steel & Wire workers continue their fight for justice
Rhys ab Owen
Allied Steel & Wire workers lost their livelihood and their pensions when their firm went bankrupt in 2002. Since then, they have been campaigning for justice. I have tabled a statement of opinion calling on the Welsh Government to write to Prime Minister Liz Truss to request she intervenes to put an end to this pension injustice.
In 2002, around 1,000 ASW employees, many of whom had paid decades of contributions, lost their pensions. Despite promises of justice by successive Westminster governments of different political colours these workers have never received the full value of their pensions.
Like other pension scandals, this is an issue which has dragged on far too long and the former ASW workers should be awarded their pensions in full.
In my motion we congratulate the former ASW steelworkers for their tireless campaign for justice, not only for themselves, but also for thousands of other victims in the financial assistance scheme.
A few months after the collapse of the company in November 2003 my father Owen John Thomas, Adam Price and Jill Evans lodged a petition in the European Parliament in Brussels on behalf of the steelworkers – it is disappointing that after 20 years of campaigning justice is still denied.
When ASW collapsed it was found that there was a £21million shortfall in their pension’s pots. Many workers began a campaign which culminated with the introduction of the Financial Assistance Scheme and a year later the Pension Protection Fund to help guarantee most private pension contributions.
In 2004 the then-Labour UK government launched the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), which was followed in 2005 by the launch of the Pension Protection Fund.
However, former workers at ASW have not been covered by the reforms because under their deal, money paid in before April 1997 is not fully inflation proofed. This has meant that many ASW pensioners have been severely impacted in retirement with many receiving a half of the value of what they are owed.
We must remember that pensions are not a golden parachute or a thank you bonus – they are a deferred salary. They are contributions made by employees, some made over decades, with the expectation that they would receive retirement security and the money they paid into the system. Instead, hundreds of workers like my constituents John Benson and Phil Jones are spending their retirement campaigning for justice.
The UK Government promised Allied Steel and Wire steelworkers that their pensions would be safe and fully protected no matter what difficulties their employers had. Westminster governments have a moral duty to pay the pensions the workers paid into in full. The Parliamentary Ombudsman stated that former ASW workers should be paid 100% compensation.
Many motions backing the former workers have had cross party support from all parties represented in the Senedd, but these appeals so far have been dismissed by the Westminster government.
My party leader, Adam Price, when he was a MP made the case for the former ASW workers and the Plaid Cymru Westminster Group continues to campaign for justice. Last year they wrote to the UK Government: “We ask you to honour, in full, the complete amount of promised and expected pensions for these disenfranchised workers and supply them with their earned and rightfully deserved pensions, as promised by the Government.”
Working people, who paid into their pension schemes for years, had their pensions stolen from them. Westminster Governments have ignored or tried to evade giving fair treatment to ASW workers and others, who suffered the blow of losing part or all of their pensions. We have a long tradition in Wales of chwarae teg – of basic fairness and this is what these former workers are fighting for.
They are people who saved for retirement and planned for it, only for their hard work to go unrewarded and disrespected. Successive UK Governments have promised action and redress but have not delivered.
Senedd members are urging Liz Truss, to finally deliver what these pensioners have been fighting for and what they were promised.
Pensions are not devolved. It is the Westminster Government that has the power to right a wrong in this case and we urge them to do so.
Rhys ab Owen is the Senedd Member for South Wales Central.
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