Employers have urged the government not to include pensions in the range of issues that organisations are legally required to negotiate with unions over when they have union recognition deals.
At present, the negotiation with unions – known as collective bargaining – only includes pay, hours and holidays, but the Department of Trade and Industry is considering adding pensions to the list.
Including pensions in collective bargaining would initially only affect new recognition agreements. However, unions have the right to press for ‘top-up’ arrangements for existing collective bargaining deals that fall short of other schemes, and it is expected that a flood of claims would be made.
The manufacturers’ organisation EEF has written to Gerry Sutcliffe, the employment minister, giving warning of opposition to the move.
The letter from David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy, reported in the Times, said: “Our members are strongly opposed to the idea of including pensions on the statutory collective bargaining agenda.
“Not only do they believe that the number of private sector organisations that negotiate about occupational pension arrangements with trade unions on a voluntary basis is relatively small, but they consider that this proposed change would create a number of serious practical problems.”
But Tony Woodley, general secretary of the T&G, said the move is necessary. “We see time and time again examples where workers have major changes made to their pensions, yet their union has no rights to negotiate on their behalf.
“Employers cannot continue to make unilateral changes, especially given the pensions robbery that has occurred, without reference to scheme members.
“As workers are being asked to contribute more to their pensions, they need confidence in the security of the scheme, and that must mean their union being able to negotiate on their pension.”