Brian Mawhinney, the Tory party chairman, wrote to Tony Blair, the Labour leader, urging him to "condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this decision by the AEEU to award themselves six-figure sums".
Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, said his opposite number, Margaret Beckett, had criticised settlements by private companies, but was silent when "trade unionists give themselves fat pay offs". He said: "This is the height of hypocrisy and shows that Labour are again willing to say one thing and do another."
A Labour spokesman dismissed the Tory attacks as "pathetic and desperate".
The Independent reported on Monday that executive councillors of the union, one of the most consistently supportive of the Labour leadership, had decided to allow themselves to retire 10 years early on full pay.
While they are on relatively modest salaries of pounds 40,000-pounds 45,000 a year, the deal, including lump sums of up to pounds 50,000 and the right to keep their cars, could add up to pounds 500,000. The news will be poorly received by the union membership, from whom it had been hidden.
The deal, agreed two years ago, is the product of the merger between the engineering and electricians' unions, and the need to slim down the executive council. It was opposed by Davey Hall, the new union president who took office earlier this year. Beneficiaries include former general secretary Sir Gavin Laird.Reuse content