Executives are pension hypocrites, says TUC

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The Independent Online

The TUC will launch a bitter attack today on business leaders who have been campaigning for higher retirement ages for workers. Trade union leaders will accuse leading executives of hypocrisy, because research shows 98 per cent of large companies allow their directors to retire before they reach 65.

The TUC's analysis, based on the annual reports of 54 large companies, shows that while the Government is under pressure to raise the State Retirement Age from 65 to 67, some 78 per cent of companies have a normal retirement age of 60 for all directors.

The TUC is furious that leading business leaders have been lobbying the Prime Minister to take a tougher line on pensions reform. The CBI chairman John Sunderland, who also chairs Cadbury Schweppes, wrote to Tony Blair this month criticising the Government for backtracking on plans to raise the retirement age for public-sector workers. The letter, co-signed by 16 business leaders, warned the deal would make it harder for employers to agree pension packages with private-sector staff.

But today the TUC will point out that Mr Sunderland and many of the business leaders who signed his letter qualify for exceptionally generous pension packages of their own.

Brendan Barber, the TUC's general secretary, said: "Britain's boardrooms are secure in a pensions ivory tower. Top bosses can expect to live long retirements on luxury pensions that are far more generous than their employees can expect. They should stop lecturing the rest of us on how we should get smaller pensions from a higher retirement age."

Cadbury Schweppes's most recent annual report shows Mr Sunderland is entitled to retire at 60 and has already amassed a pension fund that would be worth £13.8m if it were transferred elsewhere. Paul Walsh, the chief executive of Diageo, who also signed the letter to Mr Blair, can retire at 62. His pension fund would cost £5.7m to transfer. Other high-profile business leaders who backed Mr Sunderland's stance include Martin Broughton, the former chief executive of BAT, who retired with £566,000 a year, and Pilkington's Stuart Chambers, whose pension fund would cost £1.6m to transfer.

The CBI said the pension benefits earned by business leaders did not disqualify them from commenting on state pensions or the retirement benefits offered to public-sector workers.

Business leaders and their pension jackpots

John Sunderland, Cadbury Schweppes:

Transfer value: £13.8m

Normal retirement age: 60

Paul Walsh, Diageo:

Transfer value: £5.7m

Normal retirement age: 62

Stuart Chambers, Pilkington:

Transfer value: £1.6m

Normal retirement age: 60

Martin Broughton, ex-BAT: Retired at 57

Annual pension: £566,000 Took £1.6m tax-free lump sum

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