East Midlands Trains announced last week that it was “frustrated” that the meeting with representatives from train drivers’ union ASLEF had ended without agreement and that two further days of strike action had not been called off.
The company revealed it had put forward constructive proposals aimed at ending the dispute and reassuring employees on the future of their pensions. However, the union has failed to take up the offer, which would have would put hundreds of pounds into the pockets of all employees with no loss of pension benefits.
Under the company’s proposals, previously announced pension contribution plans would still go ahead in July, as recommended by independent pensions experts and the scheme’s trustees. In addition, the proposals would boost take-home pay for employees and increase their pension benefits. This would be achieved by using arrangements that would channel company savings in National Insurance into additional pension benefits for employees.
Clare McCartney, HR Director for East Midlands Trains, said: “The East Midlands Trains pension scheme has been independently assessed as being in good financial health. It is one of the relatively few remaining final salary schemes in the UK, with a level of benefits most other people in the country don’t have access to.
“Our proposals would be a win for our employees, who could get higher take-home pay and build up a bigger personal pension pot. It would be a win for our business, allowing us to resolve an unnecessary dispute. And it would be a win for our passengers, whose normal high-quality train service can be restored.
“We are frustrated our constructive attempts to provide a resolution on this issue have not been taken up by ASLEF today and the union have not offered any alternative way to resolve the dispute. Instead, it appears likely we will have two further days of strike action over nothing, with all of the associated disruption for our passengers.
“Our door remains open and we believe the way to solve this is for the union to talk and not walk. We hope ASLEF use the time in advance of their planned strikes next week to come back to the table to discuss a way forward that avoids further unnecessary disruption. We have a strong track record of protecting pensions for our people and we are committed to doing so in the future.”
Independent experts have recommended that East Midlands Trains drivers no longer need to contribute an extra £500 a year to the scheme. Previous deficits have been cleared with enhanced contributions from employees and extra payments by the company. The return to regular contribution rates has no impact on pension benefits for employees.