Pensions Action Group


Community Trade Union Press Release
23rd June 2005

Community has condemned the decision by the Government, in a Court hearing yesterday, to refuse to support a request for the Judge to contact the European Court of Justice requesting that they give priority to the legal case the union is taking against the UK Government on behalf of members formerly employed by the ASW steel company.
Commenting on the action of the Government’s legal team, Michael Leahy, General Secretary of Community, said:
“Nearly a thousand of our members lost their expected pensions through no fault of their own when ASW had to wind up their pension scheme because of their insolvency. We believe that if successive UK Government’s had properly implemented the European Insolvency Directive our members at ASW would not have lost their pensions as well as their jobs.
“Following legal advice, Community and Amicus embarked upon a legal case to determine whether the UK Government did adequately implement the Directive and, in November last year the High Court decided that the case should be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). All that needed to be done next was for the Government’s legal team to agree the terms of reference – the case that the ECJ should adjudicate on – which should have been quick to resolve. For over six months they have tried to delay the reference to the ECJ.

“At a High Court hearing yesterday the reference was finally agreed and the union’s legal team asked the Judge, Mr Justice Evans-Lombe, to contact the ECJ to urge them to hear the case urgently. The UK Government’s legal team said they could not support this request and, since such a request needs the support of both parties, the Judge said that he could not make the request to the ECJ.
“For nearly three years, ex-ASW employees and their families have been in limbo, not knowing how much they will have to live on in retirement following a lifetime of hard work. Sadly, some of them have died before they had the opportunity to draw a pension. I believe that it is disgraceful that the Government’s legal team did not support a request to fast-track the legal case, which may well decide whether the UK has a responsibility to pay the expected pensions of the ex-ASW members.”

Article 8 of the Insolvency Directive reads:

“Member States shall ensure that the necessary measures are taken to protect the interests of employees and of persons having already left the employer’s undertaking or business at the date of the onset of the employer’s insolvency in respect of rights conferring on them immediate or prospective entitlement to old-age benefits, including survivors’ benefits, under supplementary company or inter-company pension schemes outside the national statutory social security schemes.”
If successful, the case will set a precedent for the estimated 85,000 other workers throughout Britain who have lost pension benefits when their employers have gone out of business. 

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