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Union members call for 20 per cent pay rise ahead of pensions axe

National Union of Journalists members at the Carlisle News & Star, North West Evening Mail, Cumberland News and Whitehaven News are calling for a 20 per cent wage rise following parent company CN Group’s decision to end its final-salary pension scheme.

NUJ chapels at the group’s titles in Carlisle, Barrow and Whitehaven had threatened to ballot for industrial action over the plans, which were originally due to come into force on November 1.

But the group has now said it is deferring the closure of the final-salary scheme for five months, with a new defined contribution scheme due to be put in place from April 1 next year.

And so union members are calling for a significant wage rise instead to help “compensate” for the change.

NUJ regional organiser Miles Barter said: “We believe that if the company is adamant in closing the pension scheme then some of the money it would have been using in the scheme should be used to give people a decent wage so that they have the choice, either to spend it now or perhaps put it in a private pension.

“At the moment it amounts to a pay cut because the company will be putting a lot less money in the new pension scheme.”

He said the company had agreed to put off closing the final-salary scheme after continuing negoiations, and they were now looking to see if some of the staff worst hit could be compensated.

CN Group finance director Andrew Swanston said: “We are continuing discussions with the union and staff about the detail and mechanics of the proposal and hope to complete this exercise by the end of this calendar year.

“We are looking at certain aspects of the changes and how this impacts on certain categories of employee.”

When the CN Group announced its proposals in July it said the final-salary pension scheme was in deficit by £7.7m and it could not afford the financial risk of keeping it going.

CN Group chief executive Robin Burgess said at the time: “It is not a cost-cutting exercise, it will probably cost the company slightly more.

“It is about ensuring the strength and viability of the business. The risks of carrying on the present scheme are quite great.” Do you have a story about the regional press?
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