Pensions still key concern for employers and workers

raft of new research shows that pension issues are still a key concern for both
employers and staff, and also reveals the size of the task facing new work and pensions secretary, Alan Johnson.

firm DLA’s annual
industrial relations survey, which polled more than 300 large employers and 27
trade unions, focuses on the key causes of unrest over the previous 12 months.

survey identifies pensions
issues as a cause of concern, with one in five trade unions citing it as a key
cause of unrest, demonstrating its continuing importance to employees. It was
only superseded by issues of pay, working conditions and job security.

Bradley, head of the DLA’s
employment group, said: "Pensions are at the top of many unions’ agendas,
and they will feature heavily again at this year’s TUC conference.

is hard to imagine an employer being able to significantly devalue pension
provisions in a unionised workplace without scrutiny by and resistance from a
recognised union," he said.

added that as employers continued to look at ways of reducing their increasing
liabilities, they were likely to be brought into conflict with unions.

view is supported by other research that shows the number of final salary
pension schemes open to new members has fallen drastically in the past two

survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting shows the percentage of companies
offering them to new members has dropped from 56 per cent in 2002, to 38 per
cent this year.

those companies with open schemes, 39 per cent increased employer contributions
last year or plan to next year, while 29 per cent have decided to increase
staff contributions. Fifteen per cent have reduced benefits for future service,
or intend to do so.

Bowers, worldwide partner at Mercer, said: "Companies are seeking ways to
retain their final salary schemes on a more cost-effective basis. Final salary
schemes are highly valued by employees, and can help to differentiate companies
when recruiting staff."

is also pressure on the Government to reconsider pensions policy as further research shows UK
staff have saved on average £50,000 less than they need for a comfortable

analyst Datamonitor said
people had saved an average of £30,000 with both private and company pensions,
equating to around £13,000 a year once they stopped working.

Guirdham, financial analyst
at Datamonitor, said UK
workers had built up large private pensions savings relative to many European countries,
but that there was still a need for the Government to help them do more.

said government initiatives aimed at boosting savings, such as the launch of
low-cost stakeholder pensions, had largely failed.

Mike Berry



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