Former executives take on Philips

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THE LATEST pensioners to form an action group over their pension rights are 150 former senior employees of Philips, the electrical goods manufacturers, writes Neasa MacErlean.

The pensioners last week issued writs against Philips Electronics UK. They claim that they have been stripped of their entitlement to a comprehensive health plan that had been promised to them as an everlasting benefit during their employment. The company, however, says that the health plan benefit was never made contractual. Alan Tull, a director, said: 'It was very, very clear that it was discretionary. We shall defend any action with the utmost vigour.'

An estimated 700 Philips pensioners - all former high-level executives - are affected by the dispute. But the organisers of the action group have not yet managed to get in contact with all of them. The chairman of the Philips Pensioners PPP Action Group, Walter Baynham, is co-ordinating the campaign from his home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. 'You should not underestimate the determination of pensioners,' he said. 'Some of our pensioners are in their eighties and they still feel aggrieved.'

The dispute has its roots in the 1974 decision of the Philips management to provide a free, full-refund Private Patients' Plan scheme, without medical exclusions, to its senior employees. In 1987 it withdrew the benefit and replaced it with a scheme that the pensioners calculate is worth only 15 per cent of the value of the original scheme. (Claims were capped and there were several exclusions.)

Discussions have been continuing - and failing - for the last six years.

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