THERE is concern over the future of pensions paid to former workers at the former Laidlaw & Fairgrieve woollen mill in Selkirk.
Dawson International, which axed 100 jobs when it closed the Laidlaw & Fairgrieve mill at Ettrick Riverside back in 2000 after competitive pressure from the Far East, has itself now run into serious problems with the appointment of administrators announced this week.
Dawson still owns the Barrie Mill in Hawick, and this move now threatens the near 200 jobs in that town.
It comes after the 140-year-old business was unable to come to an agreement on the firm’s pension liabilities with the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) and the Pensions Regulator.
The company has been struggling with a pension debt of £129million and last month its shares plunged after it announced the pensions regulator and the PPF had rejected its attempt to put its pension plans into a protection fund.
What it means for the former employees on company pensions is still unclear. GMB union regional industrial organiser Dominic Allen says the issue of pensions is always a concern in such situations.
“We’ve not heard anything concrete from the company at the moment and there’s a lot of rumours floating around about different possible buyers,” he told us yesterday.
Borders MP Michael Moore says the issue of the pensions is something he will be discussing with the relevant authorities.
“We need to make sure it is made clear what the situation exactly is for pensioners,” he told us.
“Those on pensions at the moment have the biggest stake, but my understanding is that they are ok. But we need it clarified what it also means for those coming up to pensionable age.”
Local Scottish Borders councillor Gordon Edgar (IND) said he and his local authority colleagues had been discussing Dawson’s plight.
“We don’t know the condition of the company’s pension fund at the moment, although there’s rumours going around. The pension compensation fund put in place two or three years ago means those people already drawing their pensions should be protected, followed by those about to go on to pensions.
“It’s difficult to say much more, but it will be a real worry for those with pensions. The news about Dawson is a real shock and will affect a lot more people than just Selkirk.”
The company said Laidlaw & Fairgrieve had been badly hit by Asia, where competitors operated on a much lower cost base.
This had been compounded by the strength of sterling pushing up export prices to an uncompetitive level, the company said.