Friday, May 25, 2012

"Housing staff face massive pension hikes"

I was contacted by "Inside Housing" (trade magazine for Social Housing) this week about possible significant increases in pension contributions for members of the Social Housing Pension Scheme (SHPS).  What I told them is hardly rocket science, but after years of below inflation wages increases (and savage cuts in care and support) if the cost of pensions go up then members will leave the scheme.

I have also posted on line this comment:-

Can I recommend that if anyone learns that their employer is considering increasing contributions or closing their scheme to contact their trade union. UNISON is in the process of organising a meeting with the Social Housing Pension Fund and also will want to meet with employers.

Please remember that this “deficit” is an accounting figure which is almost entirely bogus and due a double whammy of recent exceptionally low fund management returns and a 200 year low in the price of gilts. Some things might have to change but defined benefit schemes are as affordable now as they have ever been. Housing associations should not panic. They will only run the risk of making the deficit seem even worse if they do. Instead they should meet up with their unions and negotiate a way forward.

and in reply to a blog by its Editor here

Sorry Stuart but it would not be a pragmatic step to consider closing the scheme nor raising contributions significantly. It could make things very much worse. This “deficit” is completely artificial and discredited accounting figure due to a double whammy of recent exceptionally low fund management returns and a 200 year low in the yield of gilts.

The Pensions Minister accepts that this "mark to market" accounting should be reviewed. Even the Bank of England says that you should not take a "mechanical" viewpoint of such "deficits"....

In housing management we see first hand the awful consequences of poverty in old age. Defined benefits schemes gives dignity in retirement for millions and should remain as the cornerstone of decent occupational pension provision.

I am also writing a guide/resource for the AMNT on what should trade unions and trustees do if their employer decides to try and close their defined benefit scheme (or increase costs so much it will close)

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