Newsletter No. 22
HALCROW PENSIONERS ASSOCIATION
Newsletter No 22 : August 2016
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What is HPA Doing: The Current Objectives
The deal now being offered to HPS members was negotiated in secret by the Trustees with CH2M Group, the PPF and tPR, and was described by tPR in a letter to the HPA as equitable. It results in a reduction in benefits to each and every HPS member, but was arrived at without their participation or consultation. The HPA believes that by examining more closely the proposed deal and the premises on which it is based, we can either achieve a better outcome, or be convinced that this is the best available. The HPA is taking a two-pronged approach:
(1) To reiterate our offer to the Trustees to either:
(a) engage in consultations on the basis of access to up-to-date information about the finances of the HPS and a review of the professional advice taken and lines of enquiry that may or may not have been pursued.
(b) get the blessing of an open court, as was done in 2015 in secret court or by arbitration of the proposed scheme.
(2) To raise awareness in every available forum about what it being proposed to mobilize support for our demands that members be properly consulted before being asked to choose, as the outcome for HPS could affect 11 million people in Defined Benefit schemes.
Our preference is for the first approach, but to date this has been refused. We would consider suspending the second approach if the first were taken seriously. For approach 1(b), we would ask for our legal costs to be met by other parties. We are seeking pledges of funds from members to make the various approaches viable, but would only call on them if needed. The HPA has identified an alternative way of raising a legal challenge to the Regulated Apportionment Arrangement (the details of which the HPS trustee has declined to disclose) and is in discussion with advisors on how and whether to pursue it in court. We will keep members informed as soon as we have something concrete to report.
Ultimatum Options: Which should members chose? Some considerations
On 27th May 2016, Halcrow Group Ltd. (HGL) issued an ultimatum to the 3,200 members of the HPS to select between two options regarding the future of their pensions by 5 August 2016 (a date later changed to 31 August 2016). In fact, this ultimatum presents members with four options. The significance and implications of these are discussed in detail here which sets out some considerations based on the evidence available to us. However, remember we are engineers by training, not financial advisors.
Under Option A, you sign away your accrued rights to a pension under the HPS, something only each individual member can do. No one else can take away your rights. Under Option B, you indicate you understand you will be transferred to the PPF. That implies you accept there are only two choices, which we do not. Under the other options, you retain your rights, because, as made clear by Justice Asplin, you cannot be deprived of your accrued pension rights unless you so agree. The ultimatum refers to benefits being paid by PPF, but in fact, for this reason, the PPF does not pay benefits, it pays compensation in lieu of benefits. HPS states that Option C is equivalent to Option B, but silence is not consent, and cannot be construed as such. But it could be used against you.
Option D makes it very clear that you want to preserve your pension rights, and a letter along the lines below makes this clear.
“I have seen the two Options you are offering me and reject both. I do not wish to be transferred to HPS2 nor do I wish to be transferred to the PPF. I have accrued rights under the HPS which I wish to keep. Since I have not had any information about HPS’s liabilities since December 2008, I do not accept that I have been given enough information on which to base consent, nor do I have enough information to be satisfied that the Trustees have settled for the best deal possible with CH2M, or even whether the proposed RAA are in accordance with the law. Until I do get this information, I expect the Trustees to ensure I am paid my pension in accordance with the laws”.
You can change your mind at any time prior to the deadline by submitting a new decision and asking the HPS admin team to discard your previous submission.
Please Spread the Word About HPA
Given the current situation which has major implications for HPS members' future financial security, HPA wants to reach out to as many members of HPS as possible. The ongoing media campaign should help in enhancing awareness but please dredge through your individual memories and make all former colleagues who might have an interest in the Halcrow Pension Scheme aware of the current situation and of HPA's existence. HPA endeavours to represent all members of HPS, not just those in receipt of a pension. The underlying reason for forming HPA still exists and could well continue long into the future. This will be a subject for discussion at the next AGM but, at present, the committee expects HPA to remain open for business.
If you haven't been with HPA from the start or want to remind yourself of previous events then you can browse through the previous newsletters for which there is a full list here.