Time to solve the pension crisis

AS the anniversary of the shock collapse of Allied Steel and Wire approaches, at last there is some good news.

The confirmation that Spanish steel makers Celsa will employ 400 in Cardiff is a tribute to the efforts of the ISTC union, the council and the assembly.

Against the odds, last year's disastrous events have not been completely overturned, but real jobs have been salvaged from the wreckage of the irresponsible action of the banks.

There is still the outstanding injustice of the lost pensions of ASW workers, which I tried to highlight in a speech in the House of Commons this week.

In fairness it appears the government has been listening. According to reports in the financial press this week, the government will announce its support for an insurance scheme to protect workers' pensions in the future when companies collapse.

This would help to reform the unfair two-tier system in the UK.

It is easy to see why ASW workers would feel indignant about the protected pensions of AMs and MPs.

The impression was given last week that AMs had awarded themselves a pension rise.

That, of course, is untrue. What is true however is that in common with council workers, teachers, firemen, civil servants and other public sector workers, politicians' pensions are ultimately underwritten by the taxpayer, and because governments do not go bust public sector workers have security. What's good for the goose should be good for the gander.

The government should be prepared to underwrite an insurance scheme, which would protect the pensions of workers when companies go bust.

The government will shortly publish its proposals on this, and if it includes a Treasury-backed insurance scheme it will be a welcome step forward but there is still the question of helping those ASW workers whose pensions are under threat now.

The rules governing pension payouts when companies go bust were brought in by the last government. As the ASW anniversary approaches, this government should take the opportunity to right that.