General Secretary Bernie Corbett explains why the WGGB pension scheme will be changing from 2 March 2015
One of the greatest achievements of the WGGB, way back in the 1960s and 1970s, was the establishment of a pension scheme for freelance, self-employed writers. It was instigated by Roy Russell, a WGGB pioneer, who died only a few weeks ago. See obituary.
In those days a pension was linked to an employer. The idea that self-employed writers could have a pension was revolutionary. The idea that you could have a pension scheme without regular, identical monthly payments, had hardly been imagined.
But Roy Russell and his colleagues wouldn’t take No for an answer, and they set up a scheme that has served WGGB members well ever since.
The BBC, ITV, and later independent producers, all agreed to make pension contributions over and above the writer’s basic fee, and that system continues to the present day.
But there have been pension debacles (eg Maxwell) and many changes in Government regulations, and although there has never been a whiff of scandal over the WGGB scheme, recent Government regulations have made it impossible to carry on as before.
Without going into legalistic details, it means that the WGGB can no longer benefit from an advice and administrative service that costed nothing to our members. Therefore we have had to change our arrangements, however reluctantly.
If you are a member of the WGGB pension scheme, you may be in the original Group SERA scheme, which has valuable pension conversion rates (called Guaranteed Annuity Rates) which will be lost if you transfer out or cash it in. Or, if you joined more recently, you hold either a personal pension or stakeholder plan, that is associated with the WGGB because your entitlement to pension contributions depends on your WGGB membership.
Because of the changes in law, the WGGB can no longer use a separate administration company to hold the fort between the broadcasters/producers; the WGGB; and the pension scheme providers, Aviva. The cost of providing this service has traditionally been paid for by commission, but due to legislation, Aviva can no longer pay commission to advisers such as JLT.
All WGGB pension schemes are now under the umbrella of Aviva, one of the country’s biggest financial companies.
From Monday 2 March 2015 the following applies:
- If you are a current pensioner and you have an issue about your pension, please call Aviva on 0800 068 6800.
- If you want to make plans to draw your pension please contact 0800 068 6800.
- If you are unsure about payments into your pension plan, or the way the plan is working, please call 0800 068 6800.
- When calling Aviva, please state you are a member of the WGGB and quote your Aviva policy number. If you can't find your policy number please contact WGGB.
- If you feel you haven’t had good enough service from Aviva, please call the WGGB on 020 7833 0777. We can take your case to a higher level within Aviva.
- If you are still not satisfied, the WGGB can refer your case to our professional advisers JLT, with their expert John Adams, who has decades of familiarity with all the WGGB pension arrangements. But to be referred, you must come through the WGGB office, as this will result in a fee that will have to be paid by the Writers' Guild. Please note that you can no longer call John Adams or JLT Benefit Solutions without prior authorisation from the WGGB office.
Further information about the pension scheme can be found on the WGGB website.
(Photo: William Gallagher)
Members from the West Midlands Writers’ Guild joined protestors on Saturday (7 February 2015) to protest against proposed cuts to the new, award-winning Library of Birmingham (above).
Only 18 months after opening the £188-million library, Birmingham City Council is planning to cut budgets by £1.5 million. Opening hours will be slashed by 40% and there are plans for 100 staff redundancies.
The West Midlands Writers’ Guild has been campaigning against the cuts since they were announced at the end of last year.
They joined the rally, which took place on National Libraries Day, and saw Birmingham-born poet Benjamin Zephaniah give a message of support. Local musicians, poets and storytellers took part alongside the public, who were invited to attend dressed as their favourite literary character and to share stories of how libraries in the city have made a difference to their lives.
West Midlands Writers’ Guild Chair William Gallagher, talking before the event, said: “It is a rally, it is a protest and it is needed – but it's also been heartening to be in the city as the buzz about it builds. This is going to be a crucial step in our fight to keep the Library of Birmingham yet it is also very much a celebration of something that matters so much to us all."
Watch a video of Writers' Guild Deputy Chair and Birmingham resident Tim Stimpson talking at the rally:
Screenwriters throughout Europe have joined like-minded organisations in the cultural and creative sectors to form a coalition: Creativity Works! Its objective is to kick-start an open and informed dialogue with EU policymakers about the economic and cultural contribution made by creators and the cultural and creative sectors in the digital age.
WGGB is part of this effort through its affiliation to the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe and supports the key aims of Creativity Works! including:
- Intellectual property rights sustain not only well-known creators but also help support many less well-known artists and promote cultural diversity.
- Freedom of expression secures a creator’s ability to produce content that challenges, informs and entertains without fear of censorship and prosecution, thereby contributing to democratic debate and society.
- We are committed to explaining how our sectors really operate, how many lives they touch and how everyone will lose out if we are forced to create only “free” content which provides no reward and therefore no incentive to its creator.
You can find out more on the Creativity Works! website
By Anthony Read
Roy Russell, a stalwart of WGGB’s early days, died on 8 January 2015 aged 96, after a long illness.
Roy was Treasurer for 12 years, from 1966-1978, steering WGGB through financial turbulence with a calm hand and managing to avoid insolvency.
Roy's great legacy, however, is the pension scheme, which he helped to establish and organise, utilising the experience he had gained while working in a bank, his first job after leaving the army. It says much for his character and ability that when he gave in his notice to the bank, to become a freelance writer, his boss refused to accept it.
Born in Blackpool, the son of a theatre manager, Roy was always destined for a career in show business of some sort. Choosing the relatively new medium of TV drama, he went on to write more than 200 scripts, for series such as No Hiding Place, The Saint, A Man of our Times, The Troubleshooters, The Onedin Line, A Family at War, Doomwatch, Tales of the Unexpected and others, as well as several single plays.
The funeral will take place on Wednesday 4 February 2015, 11.45am at Randalls Park Crematorium, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 OAG.
Jean McConnell, a founder member of WGGB and a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, died on 6 January 2015 in Tunbridge Wells.
Jean was also a Vice President and former Chair of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists.
Her funeral will be held at 12 noon on Thursday 22 January 2015 at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery Chapel, Benham Mill Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 5JJ, followed by a wake at the Oast Theatre, London Road, Tonbridge TN10 3AN.
Donations in memory of Jean, for the continued work of the Oast Theatre, where many of her plays were previewed, or to a charity of choice.