Friday, March 01, 2013

Gregg McClymont MP on Pensions and Shaping Capitalism

Picture of Labour Shadow Pension Minister Gregg McClymont MP addressing UNISON Housing Association Branch AGM at the House of Commons.  Gregg was our keynote speaker on a subject that is very close to the hearts of many UNISON members, who work in the sector due to unnecessary closures and contribution hikes in many of our funds, recent announcements on state pensions and the impending auto-enrolment of non savers into pensions schemes.

He started his speech by teasing me that I was one of the very few Labour supporters who turned up to the Pension fringes at last year's Party conference in Manchester.  These fringes tend to be dominated by financial services lobbyists, who on the whole are not known for being rank and file Labour supporters.

Then he spoke about the recent government plans for the state pension which may be simpler but is in the long run less generous. Despite a lot of noise by this Tory led Government, it actually signifies a withdrawal in state pension provision.

Next, was Private Pension plan provision and their high costs and hidden charges. How can workers work out the value of a company provided pension if they don't know how much it costs? Why doesn't the Government allow NEST (the national pension saving plan set up by the last government with cross party support) to compete without restrictions and therefore bring down costs? (I can hazard a guess; just compare who provides expensive private pensions schemes and who donates to the Conservative Party).

The 3rd and most thought provoking part of his speech was about the role that trade unions and the Labour Party can play on promoting responsible capitalism. Can we use our pension assets and wealth to tackle excess? In Norway there is a massive sovereign wealth fund which is able to influence and promote good company governance practises. In the USA there are also huge public sector pension funds which do the same and change company behaviour for the better.

He posed the question is it a long term  project for the Trade Unions and the Labour Party to shape the future of responsible capitalism through our funded investment pensions schemes? (My answer - Yes)

We had a quick Q&A since Gregg had to go off and vote at a House of Commons division (the bell ringing loudly in our committee room) but I think he understood our "concerns" about the way many of us feel that we are being ripped off by both the state and our employers with regard to Pensions and unless something is done than most face a pretty miserable poverty future.

Many thanks to Gregg and his office for helping to arrange this event.

Hat tip picture Sarah Day our ace Branch admin officer.

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