Express Newspapers to close final salary scheme

Express Newspapers has reportedly told staff of proposals to freeze its defined benefits pension scheme at the end of the year because it has become too costly to maintain.

Robert Sanderson, the company’s finance director, is said to have written to the 270 members of the scheme last week to inform them it could be closed by the end of this year.

According to the letter, Express Newspapers is contributing an additional £500,000 each month toward funding the scheme’s deficit. This is on top of paying into to each member’s pension fund.

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The newspaper group set up the defined benefit scheme in 1988, closing it to new members in 1997. A third of its workforce, about 270 employees, are currently members of the fund.

The letter invited the affected staff members to to join an alternative programme, the Express Group Personal Pension scheme, on terms better than those offered to new employees.

Management at Express Newspapers have reportedly entered a two-month consultation with the affected staff, organised a series of meetings to explain the changes and set up a website dedicated to the pension changes.

The Express Newspapers NUJ chapel is said to have sent a letter to staff saying: “We have told the company that while there is unprecedented volatility in the financial world this is the wrong time to change our pension arrangements, partly because a realistic valuation of the fund’s assets is currently impossible.”