A FORMER bus driver finally has a ticket to a happy retirement after winning a three-year pension battle with his former employers.
Terry Cassidy was 56 when he was diagnosed with heart disease in June 2009 and could no longer work as a driver for Stagecoach North East at the firm’s Chichester depot in South Shields.
He was offered alternative work as a cleaner/mover but at an hourly rate well below his £23,000-a-year driver salary.
After deciding that the work would also be too physically demanding, he applied instead to receive his pension early – after 34 years’ unblemished service.
But the company refused his request as it would have been faced with continuing to pay a contribution to his pension pot for another four years.
Mr Cassidy appealed that decision, and the Pensions Ombudsman has now ruled in his favour.
His unpaid pension payments will now be backdated to May 2010 and, with a five-figure payment safely banked, the ex-driver says he can finally get a good night’s sleep.
He’s also looking forward to buying a new car and a much-deserved holiday, and says others should be prepared to stand up for their rights.
For the last three years – during which time he has not worked – he has survived on virtually no income, with the support of his wife Muriel, a befriender of the elderly in their homes for South Tyneside Council.
Father-of-three Mr Cassidy, now 58, of Cauldwell Avenue, South Shields, only received Jobseekers Allowance for six-months and got some financial support with his Council Tax payments.
He said: “It has been a really tough three years, I’ve hardly had a good night’s sleep, but now I can see the light.
“I hope this sets a benchmark for employees whose livelihood is put at risk.
“This money was rightly mine. I’d paid into the system for 34 years. But the company ignored those years of service, just so they could save a little bit of money.
“I’d urge others not to just sit back and take decisions but to fight on, no matter how hard it is. Now at last I can enjoy a good night’s sleep, have a holiday and buy a new car, which is long overdue.
This decision is the end of a nightmare.”
In his ruling, the ombudsman upheld Mr Cassidy’s complaint and ordered the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund to release his pension funds.
A spokesman for Stagecoach North East said: “I believe this matter has been resolved satisfactorily.
“We can’t comment on individual cases.”
Mr Cassidy said he is also grateful for the support he received from the arbitration body, the Pension Advisory Service.