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UK: Ford and Unite lock horns on Visteon UK pension

By Simon Warburton | 26 July 2010

Ford UK says it is still waiting to see a letter sent by the Unite union to the automaker concerning the pension rights of former Visteon UK workers.

Unite said it is warning Ford it may take legal action following what it claims was the manufacturer "misleading" workers concerning their pensions.

"Visteon became an independent company in 2000 and at that time the pension fund was transferred to Visteon and there is no reason for Ford to resume those obligations," a Ford UK spokesman told just-auto. "They have been fully made and in some cases, exceeded.

"It is very unfortunate for these Visteon employees obviously."

However, Unite is vigorously contesting Ford's position saying it has warned the automaker of legal action surrounding the pension rights of workers who transferred to Visteon UK and who subsequently lost their jobs following the partsmaker's administration last year.

The labour organisation said in a letter to Ford that its lawyers are seeking compensation from the company.

In a statement, Unite added: "Broadly, workers had to decide whether to leave their accrued pension benefits in the Ford pension scheme, or to transfer them to the Visteon pension scheme. Unite believes the information that Ford provided to these workers in order to assist them in deciding whether or not to transfer their accrued pensions benefits was misleading."

Unite maintains the information provided led the workers to believe that, if they transferred their Ford benefits to the Visteon UK pension scheme, their pensions would be secure. In 2009, 610 workers lost their jobs and some of their pensions when Visteon UK went into administration.

"Hundreds of workers, many of them close to retirement, were sacked at a minute's notice and lost their pensions," said Unite national officer Roger Maddison. 

"We believe Ford misled many of these workers leading them to believe their pensions were safe with Visteon. Ford failed to clearly set out the risks associated with transferring the assets staff had built up with Ford - now many of these workers face vastly reduced pensions.

However, Ford insists it "met or exceeded" its obligations under the 2000 agreement and that responsibility for administering and funding Visteon UK's pension fund is that of Visteon UK.

"Some very senior executives of Ford met with Unite officials in January this year and we restated our position," added the Ford spokesman.

"I am not sure we have received a letter yet from Unite. It does not mean it has not been received - it may have gone to the company in the US.