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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Pension package for steelworkers
ASW furnace in Cardiff

Hundreds of former steelworkers who lost their pensions after the collapse of ASW are to be compensated.

The employees of Cardiff's Allied Steel and Wire found their savings were virtually worthless after it went into receivership in 2002.

On Friday, the UK Government announced a 400m trust fund was being set up to help them and 60,000 other UK workers.

But questions are being asked over whether there is enough money to secure full pension entitlements.

After the announcement on Friday, Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith said this would help people who had lost life savings casting a "terrible shadow" over their retirement.

Meanwhile, the government will table an amendment to the Pensions Bill, paving the way for the compensation deal.

While welcoming the news, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales Central Owen John Thomas said: "I am concerned that 400m may not be sufficient to ensure the full pension entitlements of all the workers involved across the UK."

Kevin Brennan, the Labour MP for Cardiff West, led a campaign in the House of Commons where his motion calling for compensation for workers who lost their occupational pensions won the support of 300 MPs.

Reacting to Friday's news, he said it was "unprecedented".

"The announcement has been welcomed by the ISTC trade union who represent the Cardiff steelworkers" he added.

"The ISTC have asked me not to press my amendment to the bill following this announcement.

"This victory shows the value of belonging to a trade union," he added. Around 800 workers lost most of their occupational pensions, as well as their jobs, when ASW collapsed in July 2002.

A total of 300 workers were also made redundant at ASW's Sheerness plant in Kent.

The UK Government had already planned new laws to stop other workers losing their pensions in the same way - but this would not be backdated to compensate those who had already lost out.

Phil Jones, who used to work for the company, said: "We've been waiting for this for two years and after paying in to the fund for years, we'd felt that our money had been stolen from us," he said.

"It's been a hard struggle for the people who are still out of work - some of the former workers are ill with no income at all - but it's been a brilliant campaign.

But he added: "When I contributed to this pension fund, I was told I was guaranteed a set amount of money.

"I want that money.

"I think the minimum compensation should be in the region of 90% - that's what the new government legislation says is will be and that's what we will be pushing for."

Fellow former ASW worker Brian Silver told BBC Wales: "We'd like 100% but we're realistic ... we would obviously look at anything that the government is suggesting to ensure we have a reasonable pension."

In April, Mr Blair told MPs the former steelworkers were a "special case" .

He said at the time: "The issue is one which we are considering actively at the moment.

"That is the position of people in circumstances where they have been forced to contribute to an occupational pension and then find that all the money they've invested yields absolutely nothing for them.

"I think that is a very particular and special case and we are looking at what we can do."




SEE ALSO:
Ex-steelworkers win back pensions
13 May 04  |  England
Lost pensions payouts 'peanuts'
05 May 04  |  Wales



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