PENSIONERS who spent decades working for one of the county's biggest employers say they have 'lost confidence' in ever gaining an increase to their pensions.

The retired Wiggin workers have been fighting for an increase for 22 years, with a perceived “loophole” in the law at the centre of the dispute.

Critics claim that has allowed the company not to upgrade the pensions in line with inflation – as all pension payers have been required to do since 1997.

However, pensioners hoped they might finally receive an increase when recently, for the first time, the company increased its annual contribution to the pension fund by £1.4million.

But the trustee board accepted the company proposal to allocate £2million to those employees pensions still in the scheme and the balance to reduce the fund deficit, adding at least eight years before a pension rise can be seen, when – it is estimated – a further 350 pensioners will have died.

Les Collard, the pensioner trustee, made a formal alternative proposal that 50 per cent of the increased annual contribution is allocated to an increase for pensioners and the rest to the deficit recovery plan but this was not taken up.

Mr Collard, who worked at the firm between 1961 and 1995 as a manager in the systems area, said: "Their proposal pays the deficit off more quickly but doesn't allocate any money to pensioners.

"My proposal is in the best interest of all members while the company proposal is in the best interest of the company and the small number of employees still in the plan."

Mr Collard has written to the Pensions Regulator and has also approached the pension ombudsman with a view to raising a complaint.

In a statement, Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, said: "Special Metals Wiggin's treatment of its older pensioners remains a serious stain on a very good company.

"These pensioners have not received an increase in their pensions in more than 20 years, due purely to a legal loophole, while other pensions have risen by law with inflation.

"There is no serious reason why the company should not be able to afford both a sensible contributions schedule to address the fund deficit, and to start making payments to the dwindling number of eligible pensioners or their widowed spouses.

"And there are no good grounds at all for rejecting the proposal made by these pensioners out of hand and without due consideration."

No one from Special Metals Wiggin was available for comment when approached by the Hereford Times.