Unite lambasts companies that use the recession as an excuse to cut pension provision


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Trade union Unite has expressed 'outrage' at the number of employers closing final- salary pension schemes in the last month.

Responding to the announcement that Barclays is to close its final-salary scheme to 18,000 staff, BP's decision this week it will close its final-salary scheme to new joiners, and Fujitsu's decision to close its defined-benefit scheme to 4,000 staff, Derek Simpson, Unite's joint general secretary, said: "It is outrageous and totally unacceptable for employers with good long-term prospects to use the recession as an excuse to cut pensions.

"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."

But according to the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), closing final-salary schemes does not mean employers are less committed to pensions.

NAPF chief executive Joanne Segars said: "Some of the employers in the news have replaced their final-salary scheme with very generous alternative arrangements. Workplace pensions cover nearly half the UK workforce and they remain a very effective and good value way to save for retirement.

"While we recognise these decisions are based on a range of factors, not least the cost of people living longer - indeed the Pensions Commission noted the cost of providing such a scheme has doubled in the five decades since many were first introduced - a large measure of responsibility rests with successive governments that have ratcheted up the cost of provision through waves of regulation."

She added: "We have long warned the Government it must radically reform pension regulation and create a flexible regime that allows employers to offer workplace pensions to meet the needs of a modern workforce. While the Government has made some helpful changes, I am sad to conclude ministers have not taken this issue seriously enough."

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Helen Giles, executive director of HR, St Mungo’s Broadway

Helen Giles is executive director of HR for homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway and managing director of Real People, a social enterprise HR consultancy. She has been on the HR Most Influential list since is started and is voted on one of the HR Most Influential Practitioners of the Decade. Giles was awarded an MBE in 2008 for her services to homeless people.

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