Journalists at the Financial Times voted unanimously today to begin a ballot for industrial action.
The move follows plans by new owner Nikkei to end the final salary pension scheme. The new pension arrangements will save the company at least £4m a year, according to the National Union of Journalists.
Nikkei has agreed to pay Pearson £844m for the Financial Times Group and is due to complete the purchase next month.
According to the NUJ, around 150 FT journalists met today and unanimously agreed the following motion:
"The FT chapel condemns Nikkei and FT managers for failing to honour promises made to maintain fair and equivalent terms of employment in the wake of the takeover.
"Proposals to take at least £4m a year from funds allocated to our pensions and use the money to pay rent and admin costs amount to no less than robbery.
"In light of the lack of compromise on this and the likelihood that the takeover will be complete by the end of November, we instruct NUJ reps to begin the process of balloting for industrial action.
"NUJ negotiators should insist as a minimum requirement that total FT contributions to employee pensions should remain the same under Nikkei as they are now.
"The FT chapel congratulates the pensions reps for their work so far in clarifying and working to improve the terms proposed for new pension schemes in the face of an absurdly short time frame.
"We urge reps to call on Nikkei and Pearson to find an alternative to management proposals to put FT staff into auto-enrolment pensions or into an unresolved DC scheme should negotiations not be complete when the deal is finalised."
Earlier today the FT issued the following statement: "1. We stand by the statement that it is categorically untrue that the new pension plan is being designed to cut costs.
"It has never been the objective of FT management or Nikkei to cut costs through pension changes. This proposal is about supporting the long-term strength and sustainability of the FT, and building a consistent and fair scheme for all of our people. Part of the savings generated by the changes to the DB system will be used to provide additional contributions to alleviate the impact on those affected, and Nikkei has been very clear that all savings will be invested entirely back into the business. We have a responsibility to ensure the long term success of the FT in a challenging and competitive industry.
"2. We recognise the importance of independent, expert guidance, and have already made expert pensions advice available to all of our staff. We have also listened to requests for staff to have access to a second independent pensions expert. We have this week outlined two further measures to assure people that we will work collaboratively to put in place the fairest and best scheme possible:
- "We will pay a sum, for every current active member of the Pearson Plan, towards advice with a second independent financial advisor. This allows people the option of arranging a session with the adviser of their choice to discuss their pension. We will cover the cost of this for each DB and DC member
- "We are consulting with staff representatives about bringing in an additional senior pensions expert to review the overall proposals. They will report openly on whether the proposals meet our objectives of providing a fair and high quality pension scheme for all staff.
"3. We have been asked why Nikkei is not present in the pension consultation discussions. All employment-related matters are, and have always been, managed by the FT. Pearson was never previously involved in these types of discussions, and both we and Nikkei believe it is therefore desirable for these discussions to be led by the FT’s own management.
"4. On the point about auto-enrolment: It is important we take the time to get this right. However, no one will be disadvantaged by a delay. In the event that we do not conclude consultations by the completion of the sale, the FT has no intention of creating a situation in which staff could miss out on pension contributions. We will, therefore, ensure that there are contingency plans in place to provide continuous pension provision that will comply with statutory requirements to automatically enrol staff into a pension scheme. Once the consultation is concluded and the new FT plan is established, we would back date any shortfall in contributions to the sale completion date and seek to mitigate any 'loss' in investment returns or adverse tax consequences."
Note: Picture shows FT staff voting an earlier meeting held to discuss pension changes.