GNER negotiates over DB scheme

GNER is preparing to start talks with the unions about increasing the level of employer and employee contributions to its final salary pension scheme.

The rail operator has just received a valuation for the fund as at the end of December 2004, which shows that the scheme is facing a deficit. The company, which employs around 3,500 staff, contributes to the scheme at the rate of one-and-a-half time’s employee contributions.

John Hayhurst, manager of HR business services at GNER, said: "To remain on balance we are going to end up increasing contributions on both sides."

He added: "We have just received a valuation for the fund. The directors and the unions need to talk to each other about ways in which we can solve this issue."

This, he said, usually revolves around getting a working party together, going through the analysis, and understanding how much the contributions need to be increased by.

"We have got a good partnership with the unions so it’s one where we sit down together and discuss it," added Hayhurst.

The scheme went into deficit three years ago after carrying a surplus for many years in the 80s and 90s. During these years, surplus contributions were cut by half, so that when the fund moved into deficit contributions were then put up back to the normal rate.

However, it is likely that employees will again be asked to increase the level of contributions once the discussions with the unions are completed early next year.

The final salary scheme is open to all employees at GNER, including new entrants. Pensions Management administers the scheme.