TUC calls for pensions compulsion

Feb 07 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Compulsory savings must be part of any solution to Britain's growing pensions crisis, the TUC has told the Pensions Commission.

In their submission to the Pensions Commission, the TUC calls for a new compulsory savings regime to be run by a body modelled on the Low Pay Commission and involving unions, employer representatives and independent experts.

People need to save 15 per cent of their income to provide a decent pension and in a new compulsory system employers should provide 10 per cent and employees five per cent, the TUC said.

The compulsory savings generated should provide a pension through a mix of provision.

A revitalised state second pension that does not involve any degree of risk should provide the main part of any pension for the low paid.

In addition, employees would contribute to defined benefit (salary related) schemes where employers provide them; defined contribution (money purchase) schemes; and hybrid schemes where the risk is shared between employer and employee - a type that the TUC would like to see grow in companies currently without a pension or with a defined contribution scheme.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "When we first proposed compulsion, most commentators said that we had little hope of making headway.

"Yet the tide is turning in our direction, and the Turner Commission's first report made clear that it would be hard to solve the pensions problem without compulsion.

"Companies that provide good pensions are asking why they should be undercut by those who don't.

"And those who oppose compulsion have failed to find any convincing alternative other than 'work til you drop' higher retirement ages to make up for the obvious failure of voluntarism."

However last week, pensions consultants Mercer described the idea of compulsory pension saving as "unaffordable and unrealistic".

The high cost of housing in the UK meant that first-time buyers in particular simply could not afford to meet the required level of saving, Mercer said, while increasing student debt is also making it more difficult to save.

But other – including many employers –back the TUC's line. Last year, a survey of more than 500 manufacturing companies carried out for manufacturers’ organisation that EEF found that more than two thirds (68 pr cent) of firms supported the idea of some element of employer pensions compulsion

The Association of British Insurers has also thrown its weight behind employer compulsion.

However the CBI and many small business groups are vehemently opposed to compulsion, describing it as "a tax on jobs".

Compulsion could cost business up to £22 billion a year, the CBI has warned, while many employees would resent being forced to invest in the stock market.

Indeed according to the CBI's Director-General, Digby Jones, compulsion would leave the government a hostage to fortune.

"If an individual's fund failed to deliver after compulsion, they might seek compensation from the government who had made them enter a scheme in the first place," Jones said last year.