A UK workers’ trade union has hit out at a proposal from Royal Mail Group for a hybrid pension scheme to replace its existing defined benefit (DB) scheme, which is due to close next year.Last month Royal Mail – which is responsible for the UK’s postal network and was privatised in 2014 – announced plans to close the £7.6bn (€9bn) scheme to future accrual from April 2018.Royal Mail expects employer costs to more than double to £1bn a year from 2018 under the current system.For its proposed replacement scheme, Royal Mail said in a statement released last week that it was “looking at options”, including a version of a previous proposal from the Communication Workers Union (CWU). The union had proposed a hybrid, risk-sharing structure combining a guaranteed element with a bonus pool linked to investment performance, instead of indexation.The CWU indicated that its proposed investment policy would be “aggressive” and heavily equity-based, in stark contrast to the Royal Mail’s current DB strategy. According to Royal Mail Pension Plan’s 2016 report and accounts, the group’s two main schemes had roughly 6.7% of their combined assets invested in listed equities at the end of March 2016.Royal Mail’s new “cash balance” scheme contained elements of the CWU plan “without some of the inherent risks to the company that, in our view, the CWU scheme would have created”, the statement said.“We very much appreciate the care that the CWU applied to its proposal and we have agreed to meet them to discuss it further,” Royal Mail said. “However, at the moment we do not believe the CWU proposal, in its current form, meets the fundamental principles underpinning our 2018 Pension Review. These are: sustainability, affordability, and security.”A spokesperson for Royal Mail told IPE that the company felt the CWU’s equity-based strategy was “too risky”, and would cost “significantly more than we can afford”. In addition, Royal Mail had calculated that the scheme’s liabilities “could be larger than the value of the company” within six years, and could “continue to grow quickly”.“Having reviewed matters with its actuarial advisers, the company believes that the risk to the company of [Royal Mail’s] proposed DB cash balance scheme would be materially lower than under the current plan,” Royal Mail’s statement said. “The company would also take steps to manage risk further through an appropriate investment strategy and a proportion of the company contributions would be held as a pension risk reserve for additional security.”However, this morning the CWU attacked Royal Mail’s proposal as “intellectually boring, morally sickening, and an insult to its employees”.Terry Pullinger, deputy general secretary for postal at the CWU, said: “It is an example of the closed-minded, idea-redundant mentality that the CWU are up against. It beggars belief that the company really do consider that this mutant defined contribution proposal is in any way an adequate response to the work and imagination that the union has put into our ‘Wage in Retirement Scheme’ proposal.”He added that the union had been gathering “intellectual and moral support for our efforts”, and stated that the pension negotiations were “far from over”.Unite, the UK’s largest union, is also involved in the ongoing negotiations. Its officer for the Royal Mail Brian Scott said the talks were “complex and difficult”, and warned that the unions had not ruled out industrial action if no solution was agreed.
Liberian delegation to the IMO along with other IMO officials.Liberia has again been reelected to the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the 2018-2019 biennium. The election was held as part of the 30th session of the Assembly of IMO, convening in London.An IMO dispatch said Liberia has consistently maintained a Category ‘C’ seat on the IMO Council since 2012. The Council is the Executive Organ of IMO that takes decision in the absence of Assembly. Between sessions of the Assembly, the Council coordinates all activities of the Organs of the Organization.Other than Liberia, other African countries elected to the Council are South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt.Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the IMO, Isaac Jackson, who spoke shortly after the election, expressed gratitude to member states of the IMO for the vote of confidence in Liberia’s leadership in this global organization, which he described as a very wise decision.He said, “the sheer size of the tonnage under Liberia’s flag points at our deep interest in the maritime industry, thus our determination to play a role in the more substantive aspect of guiding the IMO.”The Liberian-flag fleet currently comprises 4,170 ships aggregating more than 150M gross tons, representing 12 percent of the global ocean going fleet. Jackson said, working along with its Corporate Registry Agency, Liberian-flagged vessels meet the highest level of safety, security and environmental standards promulgated by the IMO.Earlier making the case for Liberia’s election, the Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority (MA), Dr. James Kollie, recalled Liberia’s “rich history in facilitating the international maritime industry through a favorable framework within which ship-owners compete in global trade and commerce.”He informed the conference that, “Liberia has consistently played both far-reaching and pivotal roles in regulating the public dimension of uniform global maritime transport standards.”Dr. Kollie also cited the well-being of seafarers, reminding the conference of Liberia’s principal role in ratifying the International Labor Organization, Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), 2006, better known as the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, which complements the key Conventions of the IMO and provides comprehensive rights and protection at work for the world’s more than 1.2 million seafarers.Liberia is represented at the 30th Assembly of the IMO by Deputy Foreign Minister Elias Shoniyin; Maritime Commissioner James Kollie; Chairlady, Board of Directors, Cllr. F. Jauh Lawson; Liberia’s Charge d’Affaires at the Court of St. James, Ibrahim Nyei; Liberia’s Permanent Maritime Representative, Isaac Jackson; and Nya Gbaintor.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
If reports of Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to accept the proposal to appoint Prerak (motivator) for conducting Congress’s outreach activities across the country, on the ground that the word has a glaring similarity to the Pracharak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are true, there lies an enormous hope of speedy revival of 134 year old organisation from the situation it is facing for last five-six years. As media reports suggest, a proposal to have Preraks as a bridge between Congress and its grassroots was submitted by party’s training department in a recently held meeting of chief ministers of Congress-ruled states, leaders of legislature parties in different states, party presidents of state units and national general secretaries/in-charges of states. The proposal reportedly suggested that Preraks be appointed at various levels across the country to impart training and organise workshops for workers. Also Read – A special kind of bondThe proposal could not gather support from the participants of the meeting who found that the word sounded too similar to the nomenclature RSS has for its operatives. Movers of the proposal tried to convince the meeting to adopt the concept of Preraks by arguing that it was Rajiv Gandhi who had written a paper titled ‘Abhi Prerak’ in 1987. But interim Congress’s interim president reportedly rejected the idea by saying that this was ‘New India’ and the messaging has to be clear and bold. She said that Congress cannot be seen towing it’s rival’s line. She also stressed that public memory is very short and one cannot expect people to have such recall value that the word Prerak was used by us as early as 32 years back. Also Read – Insider threat managementPrerak, perhaps, would be changed to Samnvayak, Sanyojak or Sahyogi (coordinator, convenor or consociate). If happened, it was a very meagre part of the entire proceedings of the meeting. But the incident has its substantial importance because it shows how meticulous Sonia is in giving green signal to any program her party wants to undertake and how she has an eye for details which can ensure that Congress moves in the right direction in coming months. Had there been anyone else at the helm of the party affairs following Rahul Gandhi’s exit, Preraks would have found their way in a slumbering atmosphere. Only Sonia in her party has a ubiquitous moral authority with which she can handle things differently. Therefore, she could warn her chief ministers that they have a special responsibility in states and must stand out as examples of sensitive and responsive governance with accountable and transparent administration. “We must be seen to be fulfilling our manifesto commitments. If not, we will lose people’s support with obvious consequences”, she cautioned them. By this, she made it clear that the reports she is getting about the performance in various states are less than satisfactory. Imagine if any of the names that were taking rounds after Rahul’s resignation were leading the party provisionally today, would leaders such as Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Capt. Amrinder Singh taken this caution with required seriousness? It also requires spunk to tell a self-obsessed lot to have a concrete agitational agenda on issues of pressing concern to the people and that ‘it is not enough to be active and aggressive on the social media’. Sonia told the ‘hip-hip hurray brigade’ that far more important is to go to the people directly because ‘people expect Congress to stand up fearlessly to fight on the streets, fight in villages, towns and cities’. Sonia is well aware of the fact that at the time of preparing for 2019 general elections RSS-BJP launched a huge social media campaign but they kept their ground activities imperforate whereas, under the influence of alien teenage managers, even the seasoned leaders began fighting their electoral battles on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram only ignoring hard realities that need personal touch with the ground. This is the time when Congress can bombard against a situation that has taken its ugliest shape because of a prolonged economic slump, job losses and shakier confidence of investors. This is the time when Modi government appears more and more clueless and insensitive, when vendetta politics is at its peak, when people are feeling threatened and intimidating and when each and every institution is being diabolically subverted. If not now, when will the time of resurgence come for Congress? Realising this, Sonia said in the meeting, “democracy has never been at greater peril than it is now, the mandate of 2019 is now being misused and abused in a most dangerous fashion’. She also made it clear that during these testing times it will become clear that who are those steadfastly devoted to Congress as an ideology and those who look to Congress only as an opportunity for self-advancement. The recent upheavals within her party must have made Sonia much more observant in choosing the future fellows, not only for her but for Rahul and Priyanka too. States ruled by Congress are generally seen as the standing safe sanctuaries of democracy. People-centric governance, economic remonetisation, and the strongest bulwark against BJP would add to the credibility of Congress. There is a need to put in place an effective system for monitoring and implementation of the key manifesto commitments that the Congress had made in the run-up to the Assembly Elections. Effective coordination between the party organisations and the governments in Congress-ruled states is also necessary. Congress has to counter constant diabolic game destabilisation that the BJP plays. Congress has to re-launch its narrative strongly. It must have a strong and compact team of dedicated, well-studied and sober word-soldiers that can take on loudmouths of RSS-BJP spokespersons on various media forums. Personal likes and dislikes of middle-level schemers have brought Congress to this disgraceful footing. Getting rid of this lot by sidelining them ferociously must be a top priority for the party leadership. Without this, all the sweat will go waste, as in the past. If it is against the elegance to drive them out, those who want to slush everything, those who want to hush power and those whose job has been nothing than milking, let at least let them go. Observing Sonia Gandhi’s two decades in politics, I can say that she believes in being heart-to-heart with her colleagues. Her frankness is the child of her honesty and courage. She understands that politics is a common calling and that it is something to be discussed with absolute sincerity. Sonia has spoken the truth. Others must learn to hear it. Turning deaf ears to her advise will block opportunities for revival. Congress cannot afford to miss the train this time. (The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)