Posted: September 21st, 2015
FROM the pensioner’s point of view one question is paramount according to a speaker at the 2002 annual general meeting of the Association of Mirror Pensioners. That question is: “How safe is my pension?”
The Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, scene of many important meetings of the Mirror Newspaper NUJ chapels back in the seventies and eighties, was once again the setting for the meeting, perhaps for the last time, when old friends and colleagues met again, some for the first time in many years.
For the 103 members of the association present the question was answered encouragingly by Michael Pickard, chairman of the Mirror Group Pension Trustees Ltd. He said that for those still working, or with a deferred pension, the question was: “Will my pension promise be delivered in full when my retirement comes?”
Mr Pickard said that one happening that could undermine these promises was the theft of the scheme’s assets, as in 1991. But he assured the meeting that this could not happen in the pension scheme as the
financial controls are now rigorous, the trustee board is vigilant and our professional advisers are totally independent.
Decline in share prices could diminish investments, but the trustees had an investment approach that spreads the risk but at the same time hopes to achieve long term good results. A decision last May to switch £70 million into equities had been unfortunate in the short term, but the trustees and their advisers believe that the long term case for this action is still valid.
Mr Pickard referred to the fact that many companies are closing their pension schemes based on final year salary and switching to money purchase schemes.
AMP members who had made Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) found that maturing Equitable Insurance AVC funds were insufficient to purchase additional pensions in our scheme. Consequently downward adjustments had to be made. Members may, if they wish, search the open market if they feel this would be of benefit to them.
The chairman, Tony Boram asked Mr P Vickers, the secretary and legal director of Trinity Mirror plc, whether the intended early retirement of chief executive Philip Graf would have any bearing on the future of our pension schemes. Mr Vickers replied that all decisions on pensions were made by the entire Trinity Mirror board and not by just one man.
Turning to non-pension matters, he said steps were constantly being taken to strengthen the company’s brand, and he confirmed that MGN titles now contributed less than 50% to overall revenues.
When the chairman asked how many members had access to the AMP website, which is administered by Ray Weaver, a show of hands suggested that 25 to 30% could access it.
Treasurer Roy White presented the financial report and said that membership had declined from 1972 to 1906, mainly due to deaths from an ageing membership, but a few new members had joined. The financial report was approved. Tony Boram reported the sad news that auditor Eric Hand died during the year. Eric Newson has taken over as auditor.
Mr Boram reported that resources were adequate for immediate needs and further subscriptions were not needed in the foreseeable future. The £560 cost of hiring Conway Hall had been met by Trinity Mirror; this was much appreciated as this represented more than £5 per member. Efforts must be made to find a cheaper meeting place.
The existing committee members were re-elected on the proposition of Derek Jameson and the chairman, secretary, treasurer and auditor will retain their appointments. Three additional members, John Hemple, Martin Skyrme and Arthur Smith, were elected to the committee.
Both of the pensioner trustees, Alan Burns and Andrew Golden, were thanked by Tony Boram for their dedicated work on the trustee board. Both said that they wished to serve another term after the current three years were up and the meeting endorsed their candidature.
Andrew commented on the “Parlous” state of the pension industry and said that a strong trustee board was essential. Alan said that with regional newspapers becoming a dominant section of Trinity Mirror it was essential that Mirror Group maintained a high profile. He advised newly retired members to check the correctness of their State pensions – any shortfall would be made good by the pension scheme, which would then attempt to recover the balance from the State.
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