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Shell Chair admits unequal Shell pensioner support 

Sinead Lynch, Chair Shell UK Limited

Astonishingly, the Shell Chair admits that the downgraded support arrangements for Shell UK pensioners are “over and above that provided for Shell pensioners in other countries around the world.” I wonder what the foreign second class Shell pensioners will make of this admission of Shell pensioner inequality made by the Country Chair of Shell UK Limited? Is pensioner discrimination based on nationality compatible with Shell’s claimed business principles? 

By John Donovan

In December 2016, we published an article reporting that Shell is scrapping the network of 45 Pensioner Liaison Representatives established over 40 years ago, who represent 28,000 Shell UK pensioners. Shell said the action was down to cost-cutting arising from the BG takeover and the low price of oil. 

See: Shell cost-cutting plan will undermine the welfare of its pensioners

The cost-cutting explanation has been confirmed again in a letter dated 7 June 2017 from Sinead Lynch, the Chair of Shell UK Limited sent to retired Shell executive Paddy Briggs, until recently an elected Director of the Shell Contributory Pension Fund.

The 45 Pensioner Liaison Representatives are being replaced by a phone help line and a “small team” of pensioner representatives – a number so small that Shell apparently does not want to indicate just how small it will be. A “team” could consist of only 2 people.

Astonishingly, the Shell Chair admits that the downgraded support arrangements for Shell UK pensioners are “over and above that provided for Shell pensioners in other countries around the world.” I wonder what the foreign second class Shell pensioners will make of this admission of Shell pensioner inequality made by the Country Chair of Shell UK Limited? Is pensioner discrimination based on nationality compatible with Shell’s claimed business principles?

The letter from Sinead Lynch was in response to the question Paddy raised with the board of directors of Royal Dutch Shell Plc at the 2017 AGM held in May.

See: Shell board confronted by pensioner welfare question from Paddy Briggs

Charles Holliday, the Chairman of RDS said in response to Paddy’s question:

Thank you for your comments and we care greatly about our pensioners… they’re very important… long employment by Shell is highly valued. The board hasn’t reviewed the specific action you’re talking about.. we’ll take it away and take a hard look at it… please make sure we have your information at the front of the desk out here so that we can follow up with you.

It seemed that Shell might be shamed into a change of heart.

We should have known better.

The content of the subsequent response letter from Shell dated 7 June 2017 is printed below.

THE CONTENT OF THE LETTER FROM SINEAD LYNCH 

Dear Paddy 

Many thanks for your question at the recent RDS AGM, the follow up correspondence with RDS Chairman and your passion to support the interests of Shell pensioners.

You are of course correct that the lower oil price has been an important consideration in every aspect of Shell’s operations over the past couple of years. To remain competitive and resilient through future commodity price cycles, we will continue to drive cost and efficiency improvements where appropriate to do so. However, cost, though a factor, was not the primary consideration in the decision to disband the PLR network. It was necessary to update our approach to pensioner support in the UK because our internal review identified concerns about i) consistency of delivery, ii) our ability to meet increased regulatory requirements for the provision of professional advice and iii) challenges around the management of HSE and data privacy.

Whilst Shell UK has decided to close the network of PLRs the Company has been working closely with Shell Pensioners Association (SPA) and Shell Pensioners Benevolent Association (SPBA) to roll out a new support model comprising:

• A professionally run telephone line which will provide advice and support for Shell pensioners on a range of issues and, importantly, will also refer pensioners to the SPA and SPBA as needed;

• A small team of pensioner representatives focused on staying in contact with those pensioners who are most likely to be in need of support, rather than the broader responsibilities for the full pensioner community previously held by the PLRs. This team will be established under the sponsorship of the SPA and refer cases to the SPBA when appropriate.

These new arrangements are designed to provide a more focused, consistent and professional service to Pensioners. They position Shell as one of just a handful of companies offering this level of support for pensioners in the UK and are over and above that provided for Shell pensioners in other countries around the world.

I do hope that you agree these arrangements go a long way to address the concerns that you raise and we can look forward to your continued efforts on behalf of Shell pensioners and the Company.

Sinead Lynch

Chair, Shell UK Limited

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