Unite claims employers are using recession to cut pensions

A union has claimed that employers with ‘good long-term prospects’ are using the recession as an excuse to scale down their staff pension offering to save costs.

Unite has targeted companies such as BP and Barclays, claiming that they are not in a situation where drastic changes to the staff pension offering is necessary.

Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, said: “It’s outrageous and totally unacceptable for employers with good long-term prospects to use the recession as an excuse to cut pensions.”

The union has also offered to work with any union members who feel they are being unfairly treated.

Simpson added: “We are prepared to work with employers that face genuine difficulties by agreeing temporary measures to deal with the economic downturn, which is a short-term problem.

“The government should act to prevent other employers from following suit. It is imperative that when the recession comes to an end, workers’ terms and conditions are not permanently eroded.”

A BP spokesman told Personnel Today that the move to the defined contribution pension would save “hundreds of millions of pounds” in annual savings by 2019. Last year, the BP pension scheme had a surplus of £1.58bn, but in the first quarter of 2009, the cost of funding the scheme rose to £222m from £148m in the same period for 2008.

“We realised there was a need to change the scheme to deal with a growing pensioner population that was supported by a static working population,” he said.

Barclays added that managing all company costs, including pensions, in the current financial climate was a top priority. “It is in the best interests of all Barclays employees and shareholders for us to do so,” the spokesman said.

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