The reported decision of major union, Unison, (see “Times Online – Unison forced to cut final salary schemes”), to cut back on the pension benefits provided to its staff is undoubtedly likely to generate some playground finger wagging and knowing smiles particularly given the aggressive stance the Union has taken in protecting the final salary pension benefits of its numerous members. I don’t see the decision, however, as an opportunity for derisive catcalling but as hopefully the beginning of a more realistic debate about the state of UK pensions.
I don’t believe that anyone blindly believes in the defence of final salary pension schemes or finds the broadening pensions apartheid between UK public and private pension arrangements to be palatable. The situation we find ourselves in is an unfortunate legacy of a bygone age and one which is undoubtedly not fit for the future. The competitive global market we find ourselves in does not allow for complacency or for any of us to spend above our means.
The pace of change we have seen over recent years has tended to encourage ever more entrenched positions which have made genuine debate about the issues all but impossible – but it is genuine open debate and engagement which is required!!
Hopefully Unison’s recognition that their pension scheme is unsustainable will make it easier for them to accept that possibly other schemes are likewise unsustainable in their current form and that change is inevitable and they can begin to focus that change on not only the wants of their members but on what is achievable and for the wider good of UK PLC as a whole.
So, as we have said before (see our earlier post “Slash and Burn”) let’s have that genuine debate.