MP hits out at ‘dumping’ of Bernard Matthews pension scheme if pre-pack sale goes ahead
PUBLISHED: 11:20 20 September 2016 | UPDATED: 15:35 20 September 2016
The chair of parliament’s work and pensions committee has hit out at a potential deal for Bernard Matthews which would see the turkey producer’s pension scheme transferred to the government’s safety net.
Frank Field called on regulators to intervene if a rumoured pre-pack administration sale of the company results in its pension payments having to be picked up by the Pension Protection Fund.
The Norfolk and Suffolk turkey producer, which has its headquarters at Great Witchingham, has been up for sale since June and a deal with 2 Sisters Food Group is widely expected to be concluded this week.
But Mr Field, who has called for former BHS chief executive Sir Philip Green to fill the department store chain’s own pension fund deficit, told Sky News: “The new employer must not be allowed to get away with dumping the Bernard Matthews pension scheme into which workers have paid.
“The Pensions Regulator needs to act robustly and quickly to stop such activities being mimicked by other asset buyers who wish to dump pension liabilities.
“We cannot have firms changing ownership at the price of pensions being dumped with the Pension Protection Fund – such dumping involves promises being broken, and the cuts in benefit that result.”
A spokesman for The Pensions Regulator said: “We are aware of the situation at Bernard Matthews and are in contact with the trustees and the PPF, but we cannot comment further at this stage.
“Where we become aware of a company insolvency, or that one might be imminent, we will consider the circumstances and if we identify risks to its pension scheme we may decide to investigate whether it is appropriate for us to use our powers to protect members’ interests.”
Bernard Matthews employs more than 2,000 people in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Unions have been seeking urgent talks with management as sale rumours swirl, after owners Rutland Partners put the company up for sale earlier in the year.
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