Housing association ‘planning assault on workers’ pensions’
A Welsh housing association has been accused of planning to decrease workers’ retirement pay by transferring them to an inferior pension scheme
Some employees of Bridgend-based Valleys to Coast Housing Association are likely to lose thousands of pounds from their pensions under the organisation’s plans to leave the Local Government Pensions Scheme (LGPS), which would have given employees a guaranteed income in their retirement.
Valleys to Coast want to move the workers to the Social Housing Pension defined contributionScheme (SHPS DC), which is based on worker and employer contributions, as well as any investments, but doesn’t promise such a good return for scheme members. This would mean an employee who had given 15 years to the business and was due to receive an annual pension of £19,200 under the LGPS would now only get £13,300 a year.
A Valleys to Coast worker said: “It’s completely gutting because I’d predicted how much I’d be getting at 67, thinking I’d be retiring on a decent pension. I’m questioning if I’ll be able to retire at 67 now or if I’ll have to continue working. My retirement looks a lot different. It’s a massive kick in the teeth for your loyalty after years of service.”
Unison Cymru regional organiser Carmen Bezzina said: “Many of these workers have given decades of their life to this business. It is appalling they are now facing a future where they could be thousands of pounds out of pocket.
“Unison will do everything possible to reverse this decision and ensure staff who provide such a vital service can look forward to a decent income when they retire.”
There are currently 34 active members of the LGPS at the Valleys to Coast Housing Association. Under the proposals, staff currently eligible for the LGPS will be enrolled into the current social housing pension defined contribution scheme (SHPS DC).
Under a defined contribution scheme, staff build up a pension based on their own and their employer contributions, plus investment returns on those contributions. The pension account can then be used by the worker in a range of ways to fund their retirement. The LGPS is a defined benefit scheme which provides a guaranteed income for life.
A spokesman for Valleys to Coast said: “We have begun a period of consultation with a small group of colleagues affected by a review of our pension arrangements. These colleagues are members of the LGPS under legacy arrangements from their transfer from Bridgend County Borough Council in 2003, or because they joined us shortly after transfer.
“The majority of our colleagues are members of the defined contribution (SHPS DC) scheme. From a business perspective we have to ensure long-term financial stability and equitable benefits for all colleagues.
“As such, we are currently in consultation with colleagues who are members of the LGPS with a view to ending this arrangement and transferring them to the SHPS DC pension scheme, with their current accrued benefits protected. Those colleagues are being offered our full support throughout the consultation period, including guidance from independent pension specialists.”
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