Saturday 6 October 2007

Pensions attack - resistance!

Over the last few years, many employers closed their "final salary" or "defined benefit" pension schemes to new members. In many cases they cut benefits or increased employee contributions too.

There are worrying signs that employers are now back for another slice of our pension rights. It's only a few weeks since UNITE condemned Unisys trying it on, and they aren't the only ones.

Members in Siemens have now voted in a consultative ballot by over 80% in support of industrial action to stop similar moves. This resistance has already produced widespread media interest (including online in ComputerWorld UK, Global Pensions, The Times, and Computer Weekly). This in itself must be worrying Siemens, as the union prepares for a legal ballot.

Employers across the sector will be watching the outcome keenly, so the results will indirectly affect pensions at other companies too. Industrial action is never easy, and always a last resort for members. When members anywhere do decide action is necessary to defend their rights, all of us should get behind them.

The fact that the state pension is so pitiful makes occupational pensions even more vital for those fortunate enough to have one at all. Restoring the state pension to the level it would have been at if the Tories hadn't broken the link to average earnings is long overdue.

UNITE is running a workshop on pensions for reps in our sector on 7th November, in conjunction with the National Sector Committee meeting the next day. Let's hope all the issues get a good airing there.

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