Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Barnardo's Pension Betrayal

Some things do make you simply despair. Today I learnt that the Charity Barnardo's has announced that it will be closing its defined benefit pension scheme for it's staff without consultation.

Of course it is now back tracking rapidly since UNISON has reminded it that it is legally obliged to consult with its staff before making such a decision.

But how on earth have we come to this place that a previously respected national charity is not only depriving its staff of a decent pension scheme but is planning for them to retire and die in miserable poverty?

Let us get certain things straight from the beginning. Firstly, Barnardo's do not have to close their career average defined pension scheme. It will not get rid of any pension fund deficit since that will remain and now become far more expensive to service. It will arguably make the existing deficit worse and without doubt, cost Barnardo's more money to close it rather than keep it open.

So why on earth are they wasting charitable and public money on closing their scheme?

Not only that but even the Government has accepted that the way pensions schemes traditionally calculate the cost of their pensions is completely nonsense due to outdated and ridiculous accounting measures. The Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, has promised to change this and there is currently an on going enquiry into this matter which some commentators believe could reduce the size of pension fund deficits by 40%?

What is also particularly sickening is that Barnardo's is proposing to offer its staff being kicked out of its existing pension scheme, the poverty pension plan currently offered to new staff members. It will only offer 4% or 6% matched employer pension contributions, which are wholly inadequate and will mean that many of their staff, particularly the low paid will retire and die in poverty.

Is this what they really want? What does the Charities trustees think of this?

If you check the accounts there are 8,366 Barnardo staff who earn less than 59,999 per year. The overwhelming majority of course are on much less than £59k. There are 35 staff who earn £60k - 159k per year, who no doubt earn so much, they will be able to properly fund their pension schemes.

The top earners are the ones who made the decision to close the traditional scheme.

This is all just wrong and totally unnecessary. Barnardo's should be engaged in genuine and meaningful negotiations with UNISON over these issues.

If they don't then, it will just further damage and even help destroy their reputation. 
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