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Date: Tuesday 3 August 2010

Pension-cutting private companies rob workers of a decent future

UNISON, the UK's largest public services union, today called on private companies to act responsibly and provide decent pensions for their workers, instead of leaving individuals struggling to make complex, often expensive, individual pensions arrangements.

UNISON Scotland is warning that high fees and poor performance means that many people will be left short of money when they retire, even if they have paid into a private pension.

Others are put off from saving by confusion over complicated pensions' policies, and leave taxpayers to pick up the billion pound benefits bill.

Two thirds of employers don't provide a single penny towards their employees' pensions while awarding themselves gold-plated retirement packages. After a lifetime of top salaries, boardroom bonuses and perks, many retire on six figure pensions, while their workforce retire with little or nothing.

Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said: "Public sector workers save year in, year out for their pensions, but most private sector workers are denied this opportunity. Individuals are faced with very complex pension choices and end up with plans that charge high fees, are inefficient and underperform, leaving them not enough money to live on when they retire.

"The Government should act now to bring an end to this pensions apartheid across the country.

"Ironically hardly a week goes by without an attack on the so-called scandal of 'gold-plated pensions' enjoyed by public sector workers such as social workers, nursery nurses, classroom assistants, care workers, nurses and paramedics.

"But the real pensions scandal is how the country will afford to look after the people who have not saved, or not saved enough for their retirement and then need means-tested state benefits?

"Private companies have locked hundreds and thousands of workers out of pension schemes. Despite making profits, many are closing their final salary schemes to staff, leaving them with inadequate defined contribution schemes.

"Some leave their workers with no pension scheme at all. These are the real villains and the Government should make sure they do not get away with leaving taxpayers to foot the benefits bill."

Any perceived savings being called for on public sector pension funds would mean higher costs for taxpayers on a range of means-tested benefits, including pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

A reduction in public sector pension schemes would also impact heavily on the economy as such schemes provide billions of pounds of investment every year in the UK and Scottish economies. They are more important, not less, at a time of a downturn in private investment.

Scottish Local Government Pension Funds had 19.8 billion invested in 2008, which equates to more than 21% of Scottish GDP (93.3 billion). The Strathclyde fund, with 9.3 billion invested is the largest in the UK.


Notes for editors: Newspaper reports today say that a study of high street pensions shows workers are being hit by high charges and hidden fees. See, for example, www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/190799/British-pensions-are-cut-in-half/

Stay in touch with UNISON Scotland's latest news releases on our website http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/index.html and frequent updates on our blog http://unison-scotland.blogspot.com/