UK - Energy workers have threatened industrial action if their defined benefit pensions are cut following proposals from electricity regulator Ofgem.
Union Prospect - which represents 21,000 people in the energy industry - said it had grave concerns about Ofgem's latest consultation which urges companies to cut pension costs.
Deputy general secretary Mike Clancy said: "We fear Ofgem's latest consultation on the future approach to pension funding in the regulated network businesses displays an attitude that is anti-defined benefit pension schemes. This is inconsistent with government policy and guaranteed to cause industrial unrest if pursued."
The regulator is investigation whether companies should split their pensions costs into three elements - liabilities for past pension provision; the ongoing costs of DB schemes; and the cost of servicing a defined contribution scheme.
All schemes concerned are protected by legal guarantees given at the time of privatisation, with the vast majority closed to new members.
Clancy added: "Yet when Ofgem commissioned the Government Actuary's Department to assess how the network's businesses manage their DB schemes, GAD concluded there were no issues of concern to consumers.
"Moreover these schemes are underpinned by legal guarantees which frame the pension obligations of the companies concerned. There is no good reason for Ofgem to change the pension cost pass-through principles which have been well-established in previous price control reviews."
Clancy said Ofgem wanted to mimic the pressures that are driving scheme closures elsewhere in the private sector.
"This approach is based on equality of misery. The unions have won and defended the legal protections supporting these pension schemes and fought off an earlier threat from Ofgem last autumn."
Prospect said would raise the issue with energy minister Ed Miliband at this week's Trades Union Congress in Liverpool. Union officials will also be meeting Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan.
A spokesman for Ofgem said it was looking at options to make "possible changes" to how the cost of pensions determined and nothing had been decided yet. However, he said the cost of energy DB pensions was passed on the customer and those costs had increased over time.
He added the regulator was not anti-defined benefit.
He explained: "That is not true. We do not have the power to go in there and say ‘this is the type of pension scheme you should be running'. What we have to do is make sure overall costs of pension schemes are efficiently incurred."
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