Former workers from Visteon whose pensions were decimated in the wake of the collapse of the automotive supplier's British operations will not have their day in court until next May at the earliest.
The Visteon pensioners, who are locked in a bitter dispute over their pensions with the company's former parent, Ford, said the case would not now be heard until May at the High Court, with the potential for it to be heard even later due to legal procedures. Some 1,400 former Visteon employees have filed claims, but they will be grouped together as one action to cut down on time and costs, Simon Harding of the Visteon Pension Action Group told PE.
The UK subsidiary of Visteon collapsed three years ago with the closure of several factories, which led to sit-in and rooftop protests by workers. The former Visteon employees face cuts to their pensions of up to 60%. Visteon was spun out of Ford in 2000 and the Visteon pensioners have consistently claimed that Ford is liable for their terms and conditions of employment, including pensions. Ford and Visteon, which still operates in the US and other operations around the world, deny this.
Harding said: “We have made a lot of progress this year with our claim and Ford is now fully aware of our commitment to get justice, even if it means going all the way to court. Ford is also now aware that there are 1,400 claims, and not just the [original] one from Dennis Varney.
“It is proving to be a very long and slow process but we feel our case has strengthened and that we will eventually succeed.”
A number of Visteon pensioners have already passed away, Harding said. He added: “The situation in terms of financial hardship varies by individual. I know some people that have been very badly affected, especially widows or widowers, who now only receive from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) 50% of their partner's reduced pension compensation.
“Unfortunately the worst is probably still yet to come, as the rules of the PPF mean that for most people our pension compensation... will in many cases receive little or no annual increase for the rest of our lives, so inflation will soon have a significant impact.”
Harding said he was sceptical that the case might be settled outside court, although that would be preferable. “That can only happen if Ford wishes to instigate the initiative. That is probably the best solution as the court costs will only continue to escalate, but up to now Ford has been adamant that it intends to defend its position all the way.”