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UNION BLASTS GOVERNMENT OVER PENSIONS 'FIASCO'

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Unison has accused the government of hypocrisy over its pensions policies. ...
Unison has accused the government of hypocrisy over its pensions policies.

Top companies are rushing headlong to raid their pension funds by changing the rules. Without government intervention, millions will face a poverty-blackened retirement.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:

'Pensions policy is in total disarray. Companies are backing out of their obligations with impunity - that cannot be allowed to happen.

'We believe that financial security in old age should be the right of every citizen. A cut in pension is a cut in deferred pay. The government should act as a matter of urgency and legislate to stop companies raiding pension funds by unilaterally changing the rules overnight and reducing employee benefits.'

Pensions are currently big news, but for all the wrong reasons. The Equitable Life fiasco, the miserly state pension and the closure of several high-profile 'final salary' schemes has put the pensions debate to the fore. And figures released today reveal that young people will now have to work to the age of 72 if they want to guarantee reasonable pension provision.

'Our pensions crisis is not just a problem for our members in private companies,' said Mr Prentis. 'The public sector also needs to wake up to what could lie in store if pension funds and pensions are not protected.

'In local government, where the average pension is already only£4,000, we have many thousands of workers employed by private companies denied access to the pension scheme and offered membership of inferior ones.

'I will fight tooth and nail to make sure that this generation of workers - delivering local services - are treated fairly. And that they are not the last generation of public service workers to enjoy the right to a decent pension on retirement.'

Mr Prentis also accused the government of hyprocrisy as it promotes stakeholder pensions and money purchase pensions yet MPs vote themselves one of the best defined benefit schemes in the country.

'Money purchase schemes are not a realistic option for many of our members,' he concluded. 'We think the drift to those schemes is neither inevitable nor unstoppable. Employers are using technical reasons as an excuse to close defined benefit schemes. A good pension costs about 20 per cent of pay. How many of our low paid members could afford that?

'I will be setting out concrete proposals that we expect the government to act on when I meet Ian McCartney and Patricia Hewitt later this week. We have heard today that young people will have to work to 72 years of age to get a decent pension. Unless we act quickly, poverty beckons for many in old age.'

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