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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Pension concern over ferry tender
CalMac ferry
CalMac routes could be put out to tender
Trustees of the Caledonian MacBrayne pension scheme have expressed concern over plans to put the company's ferry routes out to tender.

The Scottish Executive has said the routes may need to be tendered to comply with European competition rules.

But the Scottish National Party said ministers had been unable to reassure trustees over the fund and workers were afraid their pensions were in jeopardy.

The transport minister accused the SNP of "irresponsible scaremongering".

In a written reply to MSP Fergus Ewing of the SNP, CalMac managing director Lawrie Sinclair acknowledged "problems" facing the pension fund's future in the event of the ferry operator losing out to a private company.

There are nearly 1,000 CalMac pensioners and their pension fund has a black hole of nearly 25m
Fergus Ewing
SNP MSP

But ministers insisted members of the pension scheme would not suffer.

Transport Minister Tavish Scott said officials were working to "try to ensure that the pension provisions were protected".

But Mr Ewing said the situation was a shambles.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "There are nearly 1,000 CalMac pensioners and their pension fund has a black hole of nearly 25m.

"What happens to that if CalMac lose the tender? Will these workers and existing pensioners lose out on some of their pension rights, and what happens with the new company?

Deficit claims

"I understand from the trustees of the pension fund that the Scottish Executive have brought forward no plans, no proposals at all."

The SNP MSP said ministers had not explained how they could give assurances to members, and question marks remained over the scheme's 24m deficit, which the minister claimed was only 6m.

BBC Scotland political correspondent Kit Fraser said: "My understanding is that if the scheme had to be wound up with the takeover of a new private operator, the deficit would be close to Mr Ewing's figure of 24m.

"I suppose the question is whether trying to protect the provisions and being committed to protecting them is reassurance enough for the 800 or so workers and pensioners on the current scheme."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Kit Fraser reports on the Calmac pensions row



SEE ALSO:
CalMac tendering 'must go ahead'
18 Jul 05 |  Scotland
Union scraps ferry strike plan
22 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Unions make CalMac appeal to MSPs
03 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Executive loses vote on ferries
08 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Further delay over CalMac tender
02 Sep 04 |  Scotland


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