Newsquest has announced plans to close its final salary pension scheme to future accrual.
The scheme was closed to existing staff in 2007, when employees’ contributions were also increased from 6% to 10%.
Some scheme members received the news about the changes on Friday 6 August and others received a letter to their home address the following morning.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called on the publishing firm to begin a national consultation about the intended changes.
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, said “This is appalling news for dedicated and hard-working journalists at Newsquest.
“The company should keep its hands off members’ pensions. Hard-working staff deserve a decent retirement and Newsquest should honour its previous commitments. We call on them to think again.”
Chris Morley, northern and midlands organiser of the NUJ, added: “We are appalled the company chose to sneak out an announcement of this magnitude to so many of its employees in such a manner.
“Our members will expect that the company, if it has valid reasons for wanting to shut the scheme to further build up of pensions, to be open and transparent and therefore to engage honourably with the recognised trade unions on a collective and therefore national basis, as other major media companies have done in similar situations.
“Our members will have many questions to ask about why this is necessary now when just three years ago an extremely painful process led to a phased 60% increase in pension contributions by members of the scheme from 6% of salary to 10% to – in the company’s words – ‘produce what is hoped to be a long-term sustainable solution for members of the scheme that avoids the scheme being closed to future accrual’.
“We need to know what has caused the scheme’s deficit to apparently double in that short time when employees were making such sacrifices to keep the scheme open.
Bob Smith, father of the NUJ’s Newsquest group chapel and father of chapel at Newsquest Bradford, said: “These plans represent a huge blow to Newsquest’s loyal staff who have helped the company weather the worst recession in living memory.
“Journalists’ pay has been frozen for two years after the company tore up pay agreements without consultation. Now, NUJ members face losing thousands of pounds in retirement as their pensions are effectively frozen too.
“Sadly, the company’s commitment to its staff has not matched that of its workers to Newsquest and journalism. It continues to earn handsome profits for its shareholders while treating its main assets – its employees – with disdain.
“The company should return the loyalty its staff have shown and reconsider this short-sighted decision.”
Union members are to meet next week to co-ordinate their response.
Newsquest’s chief executive was unavailable for comment.
Read more articles on final salary pension schemes