Posts filed as 'Pensions Fight'
Date posted: January 28, 20161 Comment
Bob Duncan was a pivotel figure in the seven year struggle of BU pensioners to receive the company pension they lost when BU closed down in 2000. Now retired and living back in his native North East, Bob tells us about his time at BU and his involvement in the ultimately succesful campaign to win back the pensions of hundreds of BU employees.
Summary of recording made on August 7th 2013
Bob explains how he came to work at BU from the North east.1.00, worked in the Assembly Shop building toe-lasting machines, did this for 34 years. 1.20, became a shop steward because nobody else wanted to do it. Later became the trade union Convener. 1.55, Dave Tipton became Deputy Convener, and the two worked closely together. 2.15, became a Trustee of the BU pension scheme in 2000; only six months before BU unexpectedly closed. 2.42, when the firm closed everyone who was still working there lost their pension. 3.00, the Government had said company pension schemes were ‘safe and secure’. Bob and the group took that to mean they were ‘guaranteed’, and this was the basis of their fight for justice. 3.25, Bob became one of the four campaigners in the Pension Action Group led by Ros Altman. 3.40, there were many visits at all hours to Parliament and meetings with politicians. 4.20, met with the Public Accounts Select Committee and Bob was asked by a Labour member whether he would have joined the pension scheme had he known it wasn’t safe and secure. Bob answered ‘I might be a thick Geordie, but I’m not a stupid Geordie’. That is now recorded in Hansard. 4.50, After nearly five years the Government eventually caved in prior to the case going to the House of Lords. People were paid 90% of their entitlement. 5.30, Bob retired six years ago and now lives back in the North east. The BU pension struggle he was involved in for many years now seems like a distant memory. 5.55, Ends.
Date posted: September 5, 2013No Comments
George Curtis’s Story1
How to Live with Parkinson’s, and My Fight for a Pension
Until I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s I had no idea of what it was or how much it would change my life.
It started about 1996 when I noticed my hand was starting to stiffen up when I was writing, and my thumb began to shake. But I took no notice until I was made redundant from the British United Shoe Machinery Company which had its base in Leicester, and learnt to my horror that the company I had worked for since I was 15 had no money left to pay me a pension. Little did I know what was to come and how my life would change.
I left the BUSM and was looking for a job. A friend of my wife told her of a job in a warehouse in a little village called Fleckney – I felt, here I was, a skilled engineer reduced to a job in a shoe warehouse picking and packing. Just after I started the job I had an appointment at the local hospital which my doctor had arranged. It was confirmed I had Parkinson’s and he told me I would not be working by the time I was 60. I came away thinking, I’ll show them.
I could not disclose to anyone apart from my family and a few close friends. I had never had any illness in my working life and now I had an incurable disease at the age of 50.
If anybody asked why my hand was shaking I would tell them that I had a damaged nerve in my back – no one must know. This went on for a few years, but it started to get a lot worse. I was beginning to feel exhausted by the time 5.30 came, and my boss had noticed that I had a problem. He wanted to know what was wrong so I told them. I felt that if that manager could get me off their books he would have done this. He demanded to see my medical notes and wrote a letter to my doctor saying that the job was too heavy for me. Doctor Gordon, who became a friend, then helped me through this crisis – I owe her a lot.
I also have to thank my boss, Derek Marlow, as he stuck by me. It was about this time that a Paul Gill came into my life. He had worked for the BUSM but I never knew him. He rang me one night and wanted to know how much pension I would receive; I told him I expected to get nothing as it had all gone.
I was 59 years old and knew that the job I was doing was too heavy for me – I had to get out of this, but how? It was then that fate came along. Lyn, my wife, was shopping in Sainsbury’s and started talking to Irene, the wife of the BU shop steward Dave Tipton – ‘How would you like to retire?’ she had said, and this is just what I needed to hear.
That evening I was at Dave’s house and he asked me what the problem was, so I told him. He then explained that Ros Altmann who was a pensions advisor for the Tony Blair government had taken up the fight for those with debilitating illnesses whose firms had gone into receivership. The House of Commons had a bill going through parliament. But the bill needed the name of someone with a critical illness, and they wanted me to be that person. Dave explained that I would have to go on television and radio and be interviewed by newspapers, but that if we won and the bill went through parliament I would be able to retire.
Within days the Mail on Sunday had got in touch with me. Jeff Prestridge rang me at work and asked lots of questions. A photographer came up from London and spent about an hour taking hundreds of photos. That weekend my story was in the Mail on Sunday. Everything was about to take off. I then received a letter from the Pensions minister Mike O’Brien who said he would do his best to help me get the pension. I then realised I had some very important people helping me.
Then came the BBC: They rang me at work and wanted to do an interview with me and Lyn, but Lyn was in Leicester, shopping. I managed to get in touch with her and a car was sent to pick her up. We were then both interviewed and it was broadcast that night. The response was amazing, now everyone knew. This was the final push it needed to get my early retirement. So off we went on holiday to Germany to stay with my best mate Willy Mason and his wife Barbara who we had known for many years to celebrate my 60th birthday.
When we arrived back home there was a letter from the DHSS. It stated that the Private Members bill had passed all it’s stages and was now law. All it needed was for the Queen to sign it and I would receive my pension. But it wasn’t being paid by the BUSM, but instead by the Government.
Whatever happened to all the pension money we will never find out. It was down to Ros Altmann, Mike O’Brien, Paul Gill and Dave and Irene Tipton plus the friends who helped me, without them who knows where I would have been. When I left Marlow’s I was totally tired and drained.
It was very strange for the first few weeks but now I could watch cricket and get a sun tan, and build my strength up. Trying to work full time with Parkinson’s is nearly impossible and drags you down.
Here are some of the things that I found that helped me through this tough time:
• Don’t feel sorry for yourself.
• Don’t keep it a secret.
• Don’t sit at home watching TV.
• Keep yourself fit.
• Seated chair exercise.
• Keep your mind busy with a Wii exercise board.
• Try to lead a normal life.
• Don’t give up.
George Curtis, 24th December 2012
Date posted: June 26, 20131 Comment