EUROPE - Heineken says it is not breaking any agreement by failing to give index-linked pension increases to some pensioners of its Scottish & Newcastle subsidiary, despite complaints.

Mike Crockart, MP for Edinburgh West, last week tabled an early day motion in the UK parliament, calling on Heineken to justify its decision not to pay the increases.

A spokesman for Heineken in the UK said: “We have noted Mike Crockart MP’s early day motion.

“Heineken has consistently explained its approach on discretionary pension increases to any affected parties, and we will continue to do this as required. 

“Discretionary increases remain just that, and we will continue to review the situation on an annual basis, having regard to the relevant circumstances that prevail at the time and considering the interests of all stakeholders.”

The company had already made contact with Crockart, he said, and would soon meet him to confirm that Heineken had not breached any agreement on this matter, or changed the rights of those pensioners affected.

Heineken acquired Scottish & Newcastle in 2008.

The motion, which was supported by 13 MPs, “notes the commitment made by Heineken (…) to provide RPI increases, up to a maximum of 5% on any pensions built up before 6 April 1997 within the Scottish & Newcastle Pension Plan, in excess of the Guaranteed Minimum Pension”.

It went on to say the house was “disappointed by Heineken’s subsequent reneging on these pension agreements; calls for Heineken to justify this decision; and further calls for the government to take steps to regulate and protect British pensioners during international takeovers”.
However, Heineken has said the increases in question always have been, and remain, discretionary. 

In a statement last year, it said: “No promises were made at the time of the acquisition regarding future discretionary increases.”

Meanwhile, the UK Pensions Ombudsman is investigating several complaints by individual members of the S&N pension plan on the issue.

There is still no indication when a decision will be reached.