Thursday, 7 January 2010

Pensions blame game

A couple of posts on the decline of decdent pension provision that are worth a look. Calvin here, and Matthew Taylor here.

I disagree with Matthew's argument that unions are in part to blame for the collapse of DB, because they weren't willing to negotiate a partial retreat (though in the comments he says he's taking his cue from the lack reform of public sector schemes). I think most union pensions bods actually despair that they were unable to do more to mitigate the dismantling of DB by private sector employers. In reality the unions (for various reasons) were unable to put up much organised resistance.

Calvin meanwhile takes aim at the ACA's argument that public policy is to blame for the decline:
the plethora of reasons why quality schemes have been closed in recent years stacks so high that to pick out failures of public policy seems, by itself, to be somewhat perverse: in my view, reasons why company schemes are closing are little to do with public policy and more to do with companies exploiting a period of worker weakness to erode a vital (and admittedly costly, at the moment) part of employees’ terms and conditions of employment based on short-termist considerations and fuelled by accounting standards that are unsympathetic to the long-term nature of pensions provision. The tide of scheme closures, in the face of DWP attempts to deregulate provision, seems evident proof that the policy ‘failures’ lie less at the public level than the corporate one.

Likewise, any attempt by employers to use auto-enrolment to reduce their investment in pensions at the individual level, on the grounds that quto-enrolment will increase overall costs, needs to be seen not as a failure of public policy but a function of the same attack by employers on terms and conditions.

Not surprisingly this is much closer to my view of the world. I would only add that the really big factor in all of this is life expectancy. It is the thing that has really pushed costs up and it is also the factor that is not being adequately dealt with (which is where I reconnect with Matthew's perspective).

The private sector has not addressed the issue of longevity. It has simply passed the buck back onto the individual, whilst at the same time reducing its commitment. Moving from DB to DC does not.... err... affect how long people live. But it does affect who carries the risk, and how much they pay for it. Inb effect then, as Calvin suggests, the removal of DB is not much more than a deferred pay cut, affecting millions who don't realise it. It's as simple as that. And the Right's campaign to destroy DB in the public sector is nothing more than an argument for massive levelling down.


W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W said...

The failure of company pensions, is down to the failure of pensions investments. And most pensions are invested in shares in UK companies.

So the logic, goes if UK companies do well, then the shares price goes up and so does the value of our pension funds.

But we have a serious problem in corportate governance. Many of our top company directors are not very good and only interested in short-term gains. They don't think long term.

Just look at what happened at Rover. Sold for £10 and the company directors milked every penny of it. Just look at the banks - how many have been brought to their knees?

We reward company directors for failure - there is something wrong here. If the company does badly, then the guy at the top gets fired and receives a handsome golden settlement.

There should be major re-think in how we pay company directors. They should receive a basic salary, but the bulk of it should be in shares which should be lucrative. They should be redeemable in 3,5 , 10 and 15 years. This forces company directors to sow seeds to turn into oak trees. If the company goes bust in 3 years, then they loose their lucrative shares.

If company directors are only motivated by short term targets they will never build up the business for the future. And our pensions ar for the long terms.

Also, company directors pension should be 50% in vested in their down company. Again it ties them down that their company must succeed!