Supermarket giant Asda's plans to reform its pensions have been decried as "unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary" as the workers' union began talks with the employer.
The plans would see current employer contributions to the defined contribution (DC) ‘Step Up' scheme, which match employee contributions up to 3%, be cut to the minimum legal requirement of 2% under auto-enrolment (AE) legislation from April. Death in service benefits would also be cut from four times pay to one times pay.
The move would bring the scheme in line with the company's ‘Start Up' scheme, which currently receives 1% contributions from employees and employers apiece, as set by minimum AE rules. From April, both schemes will receive 2% employer contributions and 3% employee contributions, with both moving to 3% and 5% respectively next April.
However, Asda is now facing staff backlash as nearly 2,000 Northern Irish staff signed a petition to tell the company to abandon the plans. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) yesterday handed the petition to Asda as they began talks with the company.
Asda launched a 60-day consultation on the proposals at the end of last month, which Usdaw said would lead to workers "having less choice about saving for their retirement". The consultation closes on 3 March.
Usdaw area organiser Michala Lafferty said the union was "outraged by the company's proposals".
"Feelings are running high, which is demonstrated by us collecting so many petition signatures in just over a week," she said. "Usdaw believes to worsen the current terms and conditions of the scheme is unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary. Pensions are not a bonus or gift - they are based on earnings and are effectively deferred wages.
"Usdaw believes it is an entitlement and we view this proposal as nothing more than a wage cut."
Asda had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.
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