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Baker ‘disappointed’ at EMT pension proposals

Transport minister Norman Baker has entered the pensions dispute between East Midlands Trains (EMT) and train drivers’ union Aslef, in a letter setting out the DfT’s position on the matter, saying it only “reluctantly” accepted the operator’s decision to cut its contributions.

EMT is proposing to reduce pension contributions from the firm and staff from July, stating that it will save drivers £500 a year.

Aslef has held six one-day strikes over the plans and claims the company’s reduction would save EMT up to £3m over the next three years. The union wrote to the DfT to ascertain why the proposals were accepted.

Baker wrote: “The reply sent in response to the consultation stated: ‘the department is disappointed that EMT has chosen to reduce contributions rather than have them remain as they are. Leaving contributions as they are would have ensured some stability in the current economic climate.”

“However, the department accepts that EMT has acted in accordance with the advice of the scheme actuary.

“It is therefore correct for East Midlands Trains to state that the department accepted the recommendations to reduce the contributions, but only reluctantly and only because it was acknowledged that the action was compliant with the terms of the Franchise Agreement and the advice of the scheme actuary at the time of the last valuation in December 2010.”

The Aslef union official who received Baker’s letter, Andrew Botham, said: “It is clear that East Midlands Trains have ignored the advice of the Government.”

But an East Midlands Trains spokesperson said: “As we have already made clear, the changes are based on the recommendations of the independent experts and already take into account relevant factors such as the economic climate and its impact on pensions investments as well as the safeguards built into the valuation.

“We have put updated proposals to the unions following our recent meeting and we would again urge them to sit down and talk about resolving the dispute rather than continuing with any further unnecessary strike action.”

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Image c. Dave Radcliffe for Liberal Democrats.


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