Employers 'must pay into staff pensions'

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Indy Politics

Demands for employers to be forced to pay into staff pension schemes were overwhelmingly backed by the Labour conference yesterday after the leadership was ambushed by the unions.

Delegates backed a motion calling for compulsory contributions to pension schemes after a tough statement was inserted by Labour's biggest union backers at the last minute, despite attempts by party officials to avoid a vote on the issue. Union leaders want employers to be compelled to make pension scheme contributions equivalent to 10 per cent of salaries.

Andrew Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said the vote would not force the Government's hand, but insisted that the independent Pensions Commission had already been asked to study the proposal. Mr Smith won a standing ovation after outlining plans to allow people with a state pension to claim a lump sum payment of about £30,000 if they delay retirement until 70.

But a succession of union leaders told the conference that radical action was needed to prevent a long-term crisis in pensions.

Sir Bill Connor, general secretary of the shop workers' union Usdaw, said the motion "reaffirms our commitment to compulsory employer contributions to pension schemes.

"Unless we act swiftly and decisively the crisis will deepen further."

Kevin Curran, GMB general secretary, said: "The biggest thing our Government can do for tomorrow's pensioners is to make decent occupational pensions with employer contributions compulsory in the UK."

Tony Woodley, general secretary-elect of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "Without compulsory pension contributions no pension scheme can survive. I have never met a generous employer in my life. I have met many good ones, but not generous."