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Greater pension oversight is welcome, but we need administrators to focus on saving jobs

Date: 30 April 2017 Shopworkers’ trade union leader John Hannett has responded to reports that the Conservative general election manifesto will contain a commitment to give the Pensions Regulator new powers to scrutinise takeovers or "unsustainable" dividend payments that threaten the solvency of a company pension scheme.
Speaking from Usdaw Annual Delegate Meeting in Blackpool, John Hannett - Usdaw General Secretary says: “This is clearly motivated by the terrible circumstances around the collapse of BHS. An earlier intervention in the affairs of BHS, particularly at the time of the sale of the business for one pound, may have provided a better outcome for the pension scheme members. Equally we need more action to focus on keeping businesses afloat and a requirement on administrators to help save jobs.

“It was extremely disappointing that the administrators didn’t sell a single BHS store to another retailer as a going concern, allowing the loyal hardworking staff to stay in their jobs and transfer to a new employer. It's still difficult to believe, given the prime sites BHS occupied.

“This weekend news is emerging that former BHS stores are now being taken on by retailers, including Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group. This confirms that yet again a business closes and no priority is given to keeping staff in work, despite their commitment and loyalty. Could Sir Philip Green have stepped in sooner to take on BHS premises? He will need to explain why he didn’t.

“Focussing administrators on saving a business is clearly in the best interest of workers and solvency of the pension scheme, but it is in the best interest of taxpayers. In recent years we have seen millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money paid in cases involving workers at Woolworth’s, Ethel Austin, Kwik Save, TJ Hughes, Barratt’s and many others. There are still cases pending, including Comet, Blockbuster’s and Jessop’s.

“Administrators must be required to enter into consultation, allowing workers to have a say in the future of the business and find ways of helping the company get through a difficult period and save jobs.”

Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest trade union with nearly 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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