Belfast Telegraph

Ford 'blemished over pensions'

Ford's reputation has been blemished by its failure to fulfil its moral duty to pay former employees their full pensions, MPs heard today.

The automobile manufacturer formed its global parts manufacturer Visteon in to a new company in 2000 but it was "set up to fail" in the UK and collapsed in 2009, Conservative Stephen Metcalfe said.

The South Basildon and East Thurrock MP explained employees had been advised by Ford to transfer their pensions to Visteon's new scheme and told it would be on the same terms.

But Mr Metcalfe said Visteon UK' s pension pot was under-funded by around £350 million, resulting in former Ford employees receiving reduced pensions and some losing up to 50% of what they had "paid in to and had earned".

He urged Ford Motor Company's chief executive Alan Mulally and executive chairman Bill Ford to step up and solve the issue.

The Government must also use its "power and influence" to ensure Ford recognises its responsibilities, according to a motion put forward for discussion during a Commons debate.

In 2010, it was reported up to 4,000 workers were told they could lose as much as half of their pension entitlements when Visteon went into administration in 2009.

Workers affected were based in Belfast, Basildon in Essex, Enfield in north London, and Swansea.

Mr Metcalfe, leading the backbench business debate, told MPs: "This issue transcends what the legal debates might be in a court of law.

"This is an issue of trust and moral responsibility and a fine company like Ford has unfortunately blemished its character by not living up to the expectations of its former employees."

He added: "This is a stain on Ford's character, it doesn't live up to the expectations that people have of a blue chip brand that has been in this country for over 100 years and that is why I have taken up this issue over the last three and a half years with such passion because they are damaging themselves as well as their former employees."

Turning to the Government's role, Mr Metcalfe said: " While the root of this issue does not lie at the door of the Government, there is more the Government can do to protect workers in the future.

"Particularly around the way the pension protection fund operates and the cap operates, particularly when there is long service involved, but also make sure when people are transferred into a new pension fund they are getting proper independent, sound financial advice.

"I think that would be a very good and sensible step forward."

He added: "People trusted Ford and now they wished they hadn't and that is sad.

"Ford is a great company and it has the potential to be great in the future but it is allowing its reputation to be tarnished by not stepping up to the plate."

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