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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 January, 2004, 15:51 GMT
Pension protesters halt traffic
Pensioners marching
Peers say the UK's pension system should be made fairer and simple
Ex-staff of recently-folded firms have staged a sit-down protest in central London over their lost pensions.

About 150-200 demonstrators stopped traffic at the busy Oxford Circus junction for half an hour.

They say ministers failed to protect their pension funds, many of which were lost when their companies went bust.

The protest came as a House of Lords committee called for a system of state pensions based on years of residency, and not National Insurance payments.

'Real worry'

Protesters whistled, chanted and waved placards during their protest in the busy shopping street on Saturday.

One group was dressed as undertakers and carried a coffin marked with the slogan Pensions Buried With Our Future.

Most of us have paid into pensions for up to 40 years and now we have nothing
Peter Humphrey, Hemel Hempstead

Peter Humphrey, 60, from Hemel Hempstead, worked for storage firm Dexion until it went into receivership in May 2003.

He said: "Most of us have paid into pensions for up to 40 years and now we have nothing.

"I should have started receiving my pension in August. Now I'm told I won't get anything until I'm 65.

"Legislation needs to be changed. There is no cover for company wind-ups."

The only acceptable outcome of this to all of us is fully deferred wages as we paid for them
Willie Riggins, T&G

Ray Lane, 57, from the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, who worked for steel firm ASW in Kent, said: "I was going to pack up next year with enough pension to live on, but now I don't know.

"It was a condition of employment that I join the pension scheme and I paid in for 30 years. Then the company wound up and went into receivership.

"We may get 30%, we don't know. We will have to carry on working a lot longer, it's a real worry."

Under current law workers are at risk of losing their workplace pensions if their firm collapses, however long they have paid contributions for.

Lords call

The government plans to introduce a law under which employers must pay into a protection fund to cover workers if they go bust.

Piggy bank

But this will apply only from 2005, and workers who have already lost out are not to be compensated.

A report by the influential all-party economics affairs committee in the House of Lords called for a shake-up in the state pension.

The peers said the UK's pension system should be made fairer and simpler by paying a state pension to everyone, regardless of what national insurance contributions they had made, and based on years of residency in the UK.

Workers would be expected to save any extra on top of that.

The BBC's Sophie Hutchison
"Campaigners say it's an issue that desperately needs resolving"

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