UK - MPs in the House of Commons have criticised plans by UK publishing house Newsquest to alter its final salary pension scheme.

Labour MP Austin Mitchell tabled an Early Day Motion, currently supported by 24 MPs, which highlighted concerns over the changes announced to employees of the media group in July.

The changes would mean members who wish to keep their final salary pension would have to pay increased contributions, up from 6% to 10%, for the same level of benefit, or move to a less generous pension.

Mitchell claimed Newsquest’s US parent company Gannett was seeking to “shift the burden of its final salary pension scheme on to staff, thereby threatening to undermine support for the scheme”.

He pointed out the UK operations had achieved profits of £120m (€168m) in 2006-07 and called on Gannett to “use a proportion of those profits to protect the pension provision of the scheme’s 9,000 members”.

In addition, the National Union of Journalists - which represents some of the employees - said it is currently balloting members in York and Darlington over the possibility of strike action as a protest against the changes which it claims are being pushed through “without proper consultation”.

Michelle Stanistreet, president of the NUJ, said: “Newsquest should be left in no doubt that these pension changes will have a major impact on our members. Journalists are being called upon to shoulder a far greater share of their pension provision than people working in other media groups.

“This is an incredibly profitable business - the company’s UK operation made £120m last year. That is money which should be used to secure the pensions and futures of staff who work hard to make such profits possible in the first place,” added Stanistreet.

A spokesman for Newsquest refused to comment on the latest developments.

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