Socialist Worker

If your pension scheme’s in trouble it’s not because the boss is hard up

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2518

Plunder at sea - Philip Greens yacht Lionheart

Plunder at sea - Philip Green's yacht Lionheart (Pic: Flickr/Frank Kehren)


Post Office workers in the CWU union have voted by 83 percent for industrial action over job security and to defend their pensions. Bosses want to close their final salary pension scheme.

Bosses love to complain about pension schemes getting too expensive.

But Britain’s top firms threw five times more cash at their shareholders than they paid into workers’ pension schemes last year.

Some 87 companies listed on the FTSE 100 index paid just over £13 billion between them into pension schemes. Their shareholders grabbed nearly £72 billion, consultancy firm LCP found.

It’s no wonder so many pension schemes are now “unsustainable” that LCP warns “we expect to see many more pension scheme closures announced in the coming months and years”.

Of the 56 firms that disclosed figures for the pension liabilities, over half were in deficit, with a combined shortfall of £42 billion.

But these same fats cats paid out dividends worth £53 billion—enough to bridge the gap with 25 percent extra to spare.

Pensions are workers’ deferred wages, but many bosses take “holidays” from paying their contribution.

Instead they hog the cash for themselves and their shareholders.

Former BHS owner Philip Green is a particularly disgusting example.

After taking more than £580 million in dividends, rental payments and interest on loans out of the firm, he sold it for £1 with a pension deficit of £571 million.

As 11,000 BHS workers got sacked and their pensions slashed Green was buying his third yacht, joining a speedboat, helicopter and Gulfstream jet.

Other top executives took the same pension holidays but made sure to look out for themselves.

To avoid changes to tax allowances on big pension pots, bosses have shifted towards taking cash instead. The average value of this was £242,000 in 2015, or 13 percent of total executive pay.

There seems to be little “pressure” to cut the perks of the boardroom set or the payouts to shareholders. But when it comes to workers, everything is considered for the chop.

Some 90,000 Royal Mail workers are the latest to see an attempt to raid their pensions.

If it is similar to the current attack on Post Office workers’ pensions thousands could lose half of their pension pot.

Postal workers can beat back this attack by striking.

There’s plenty of money to pay workers’ pensions. It just needs taking off the fat cats.


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