ITALY – The head of the Italian food and beverage pension fund Alifond is confident that the pensions of the scheme’s Parmalat members are safe.

Amedeo Tiveron, president of the 32,000-strong defined contribution fund, said in an interview that the funds of those Parmalat staff who joined the scheme three years ago to integrate their social pension were safe.

Tiveron said that money put into the Rome-based scheme was not in danger, because the fund’s managers - ING Investment Management Italia, Pioneer Investment Management and San Paolo IMI Wealth Management - had not invested in Parmalat bonds. The managers were appointed in October 2003 and each manages a third of the assets.

He was not able to say how many Parmalat employees were in the scheme, which was founded in 2000 and which named a new administrative council late last year.

Although workers are entitled to an Alifond pension after a minimum of 10 years, in the case of immediate dismissal, Parmalat‘s employees could claim back the money contributed so far, Tiveron added. “There should really be no risk. I am not worried.”

A spokesman for ING confirmed that the company, which has had a “discretionary mandate”, had never invested in Parmalat bonds .

Alessandro Gandolfi, who handles pension funds at San Paolo IMI Wealth Management, said: “Every fund has a tracking error and there is well structured risk-control, suffice to say that the funds review the portfolio at least once a month, while some others look at the NAV net asset_value once a week.”

He added that the regulator Covip, the Commissione di Vigilanza sui Fondi Pensione, was “very focused on risk control”.

A spokesman for UniCredito’s Pioneer arm said Parmalat’s “lack of transparency” had prompted its analysts to liquidate the company’s securities and stop investing in the company.

“Pioneer, as an investor, managed to gain access to the former chief financial officer, Fausto Tonna, for a meeting two times in three years. Transparency and accessibility are important factors when credit-risk decisions are made.”

Parmalat’s management, he added, had also puzzled analysts by failing to explain the group’s transformation into a financial group. “We began wondering what the real nature of the company was.”

Pioneer’s decision, however, “hardly effected Alifond, since their assets have never been invested in the company’’s securities,” the spokesman said.

Parmalat workers are covered by the social security fund Istituto Nazionale per la Previdenza Sociale. If the dairy products firm were to make its 4,000 employees in Italy redundant, the INPS’s ‘indennita di mobilita’ would consist of about 70% of their current wages.

Workers in the south would be paid for nearly three years, while their counterparts in the north for two years, said Pasquale Papiccio, national secretary of UILA, the agriculture and food division of the Uil union.

Papiccio said: “It is not only a question of saving jobs at Parmalat, it is a question of preserving the image of ‘made in Italy’.”

Parmalat was hit earlier this week with a lawsuit from the Southern Alaska Carpenters’ Retirement Trust.