Posted: September 21st, 2015
David Thompson (Chairman) Gerald Mowbray (Secretary) Crawford McAfee (Committee)
Apologies: Harry Conroy (Committee & Scottish Organiser) Roy White (Treasurer)
Michael Pickard Chairman, Mirror Group Trustees Ltd
Iain Urquhart Group Pensions Director, Trinity Mirror
Ralph Tomes Secretary, Mirror Group Trustees Ltd
Alan Burns Member-elected Trustee, Mirror Group Trustees Ltd
Andrew Watson Member-elected Trustee, Mirror Group Trustees Ltd
1.0 Chairman’s Report:
There was some confusion on the start time for this meeting – 11.0am or 12 noon. DT advised that the MGN Trustees representatives would not be available until 12 noon. GM later advised that it had been agreed with Trinity Mirror that the original 12 noon start would continue for this meeting and e-mails had been sent confirming this time to those concerned.
As there were a good number of members present at 11.0am, DT commenced by saying he was pleased to report that membership and funds had grown during the last year. Gerald Mowbray would give the membership details during his report later. The Committee had significantly increased its membership with new members joining after the last AGM. There had been three meetings during the year to progress recruitment and fund raising activities and two newsletters had been published. There had also been the well-attended first meeting in Glasgow for Scottish members and this was now an annual event.
The existing Officers and Committee had been re-elected at last week’s AGM.
DT advised that the Committee’s aims for the next year are to continue to increase membership and the financial strength of the AMP. DT appealed for help in recruiting new members so that AMP represented the majority of pensioners and thus has a greater voice in representing future MGN pensioner interests.
DT referred to last year’s Scottish Annual Meeting resolution for a £10 annual membership to be considered by the new Committee. The Committee had considered this request earlier this year and had decided, given the extra administration work involved and potential hardship for older pensioners on small pensions, not to pursue an annual fee. However, the present £5 life membership subscription, which had been at this level since 1992, has now been raised to £10 – but with the option to make annual standing order payments if members wished to contribute further.
DT then advised that the Committee had suggested having a small number of well-known public figures as AMP Patrons in order to give greater influence to the work of the AMP. The recent AGM had endorsed this proposal and DT would welcome any names for consideration later in the meeting.
2.0 Secretary’s Report:
GM joined the meeting at this stage and reiterated the financial information given to the AGM by Roy White. There were no queries with the accounts to 31st March 2005 as reported in the recent Mirror Pensioner newsletter.
GM advised that the Spring Newsletter had brought in £10,100 and 9 new members. The recent Autumn Newsletter had brought in £2,000 and 83 new members to date. In addition some £890 had been committed by annual standing orders. The overall Fund now stood at just over £42,000.
GM reported that membership was now 2,330, including the recent recruitments to date from the latest newsletter. The decline in membership up to 2004 (1,825 at that time) had now been arrested but GM supported DT’s appeal for more AMP members. AMP still only represented less than a third of all pensioners and we need to strengthen AMP’s voice to meet any future threats to our pensions’ security.
GM added that all three MGN pension schemes were now closed to new members and thus pension scheme membership would continue to reduce. As a consequence, the 3 MGN schemes would become less influential compared with the active and expanding Trinity Mirror pension schemes in the future.
GM referred to the security of the pension funds. This question continues to be asked by member each year. The Committee has now agreed to spend some of the Emergency Fund monies by asking Giles Orton, the pensions’ specialist lawyer who had helped Tony Boram and the AMP in the earlier battles with Robert Maxwell and MGN, to investigate the strength of the Covenant between Trinity Mirror and the MGN Pension Trustees Ltd. Members will be advised of the results of this investigation and any legal opinion arising via one of the future AMP newsletters.
GM commented on the present MGN Pension Trustee Board representation. Although pensioners and deferred pensioners represented some 75% of pension fund members their Board representation was only 15% (2 C directors). Active members’ representation was 35% and the Company had 50%. At some time in the future, when directors were up for re-election, AMP should pursue greater representation by pensioners and deferred pensioners. There was general support for this action.
GM then referred to the present C Director election and asked members to support the re-election of Alan Burns (present) and Andrew Golden. The experience and expertise of both Alan and Andrew, gained over several years of MGN trusteeship, should not be lost at this increased trustee responsibility and increased pension legislation era.
Finally, GM repeated the report given by Ray Weaver to the AGM on improvements to the AMP website. A show of hands indicated only some 15% present had access to the internet. GM hoped that this number would gradually increase as the website enabled members to keep up-to-date with AMP news and events.
3.0 Alan Burns (Trustee C Director) Address:
DT then asked if Alan Burns would like to say a few words prior to the arrival of the Company and MGN Pension Trustee speakers.
AB advised that it would be more appropriate to speak after hearing from the Company and MGN Trustee representatives. However, AB referred to GM’s comments on AMP membership numbers. AB considered that Tony Boram had punched well above his weight and this had made up for the small AMP representation of all MGN pensioners. However, it was important to increase membership so as to gain more recognition.
AB endorsed Giles Orton being asked for advice by AMP on future pension security matters. AB added that Giles Orton, who was now very experienced in pension matters, had worked for free in the early days and then only at nominal rates later.
At this stage the Chairman announced a 20 minutes break and for the meeting to recommence at noon when the Company and MGN Trustee representatives would join the meeting.
The meeting reconvened at noon and DT advised the meeting that there would be a memorial service for Tony Boram, AMP’s long-standing Chairman, at 11.0am (now noon) at St Brides Church, Fleet Street on Wednesday, 18th January 2006. All members are welcome to attend. AMP would be organising the memorial service and underwriting the costs involved. Other contributions would be sought.
DT asked for a minute’s silence in memory of Tony Boram who had died soon after last year’s Scottish Annual Meeting.
DT then welcomed the Company and Mirror Group Trustees representatives and some more members. DT thanked Trinity Mirror for arranging for the printing of the latest AMP Newsletter and which had been distributed to all pensioners once again; for paying for the AGM hall costs again; and arranging for this room to be made available by the Scottish Daily Record & Sunday Mail. DT also thanked Ralph Tomes for his assistance, again, in providing facilities for the in-house newsletter labelling operation. The Company’s continuing support was much appreciated by the members.
DT then invited Michael Pickard to address the meeting.
3.0 Michael Pickard Address (now posted on the Association’s website-Miranda page)
MP gave a similar address to that given at the AGM last week.
MP concluded by saying that Mirror Group Trustees now had a more pro-active role in financial matters with the Company due to the new pensions’ legislation. Pension funds were now unsecured creditors. MP regretted that this increased trustee responsibility had resulted in James Lland resigning as a trustee. MP paid tribute to JL’s valuable work over the past years.
4.0 Iain Urquhart Presentation: (now posted on the Association’s website-Miranda page)
IU thanked AMP for the invitation to address the AMP Scottish meeting for the second time. IU added that it was the twelfth time that he had attended an AMP meeting.
IU then gave a similar address to that given last week at the AGM in London.
IU concluded by advising that the Company was in a sound financial position and that the Board continues to take a close interest in AMP and its pension activities. IU advised that he has to give a report on the various company pensions’ schemes every quarter year to the Trinity Mirror Board.
DT thanked both MP and IU for their informative presentations and opened the meeting for any questions to the Trustee and Company representatives.
MP replied to a question on future pension fund deficits. The Trustees, together with the Company, will continue to improve investment decisions with the aim of increasing fund monies. The Company will provide agreed deficit funding and thus endeavour to ensure that all future pension liabilities can be met. The employees will not be asked to make good any funding deficit. MP added that there had been a good funding covenant set up a few years ago and IU then confirmed that the covenant laid down a period of 10 years to overcome funding deficiencies.
IU advised that some £29 million had been switched out of equities in July this year to capitalise on the equity market increase and transferred to bonds. IU added that the costs of pensions are increasing as pensioners live longer and interest rates remain low.
MP confirmed that the Government taking back responsibility for SERPs payments in 1993 had been beneficial to the MGN pension funds. The £60-£70 million involved had been given as an interest-free loan with the Trustees paying back over a number of years.
Some questions on future investment policy were addressed by both MP and IU
At the conclusion of the question and answer session, DT apologised for the meeting start time confusion.
After being thanked for their attendance, presentations and answering the several questions, from the Floor, the Company and Trustee representatives left the meeting at 12.45pm.
5.0 Alan Burns Address (Continued):
AB opened by emphasising that the Trustees take the security of the pension funds very seriously. The Trustees endeavour to obtain the best actuarial, legal and investment professionals and continually monitor their performances. In addition, the Government has strengthened the role of pension fund trustees in their dealings with companies. Trinity Mirror considered a share buy back scheme last year but now they would have to consult the Trustees.
AB added that IU and the Trinity Mirror Board continued to show great interest in the affairs of the three MGN pension schemes.
AB then referred to the National Titles not doing as well as the rest of the Group and the possibility of a future sell off or takeover. However, AB assured the Annual Meeting that any new company would have to guarantee the pension funds solvency. AB continued by advising that the Trustees had set up a sub-committee, with some of the Trustees’ professional advisors involved, to determine the answers to the “What if” question.
AB then referred to the Trustees investment policy which was very cautiously based. A small proportion was invested abroad but the bulk was in pooled UK funds.
Finally, AB thanked the members for their past support and hoped that they would continue to support him in the current C Director election. AB ended by asking the meeting how more members can be gained to further strengthen AMP.
The Chairman thanked AB for his contribution and opened AB’s recruitment question to the meeting.
The following responses were received:-
More Union contacts – DT advised Arthur Saxby (Committee) now progressing this action.
More AMP newsletter copies to be made available at specific distribution centres across the Group to give to active pension fund members – Committee to consider an increased print run.
6.0 AMP Patrons Invitation:
DT advised that two or three names had been put forward by the Committee but asked the meeting for any further suggestions. Alex Ferguson, Sean Connery and Jim Craig were suggested though their interest in pensions’ affairs was unknown.
7.0 Other Business:
AMP Newsletter Content:
DT asked for more input from members for the next AMP newsletters. The recent newsletters had been very journalistically-led and DT appealed for a wider “departmental” input.
The Chairman concluded by thanking all attending members for their support for this second successful meeting in Scotland.
7.0 Next Annual Meeting:
11.0am on Monday, 2nd October 2006 at the same venue (to be arranged).
GM then gave a repeat of his Secretary’s Report to those members who attended at noon.
The meeting ended at 1.30pm.
Estimated 37 members attended.
By BILL ROWNTREE, former Mirror Group photographer
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