Morning view: NI Water pension action is unfair and cruelly timed

Morning View
Morning View

No-one who has worked for many years building up a pension entitlement would then welcome the news that they will get less in retirement than they thought they were going to get.

Nor would they welcome learning that they will have to make higher contributions to their pension fund during their working life to get the same amount of pension income that they thought they would get by making lower contributions.

But that is the unpalatable situation that has been faced by millions of private sector workers across the UK for years.

It is in fact a scenario that is hitting people across the western world.

The source of the problem is simple - people are living much longer than they did 50 or 100 years ago.

Then, people often retired from jobs at 65 and died at 70. Now, many people retire from jobs at 60 and live to 90.

You only have to do some basic maths to realise that having enough money to provide for a retirement that lasts five years is a very different scenario to providing for a retirement that lasts over 25+ years.

So while the disappointment of Northern Ireland Water employees is understandable, given that they will have to contribute more to their pensions, their response to it — industrial action — is wrong.

It is wrong because they not only enjoy the sort of generous pensions that are increasingly scarce in the private sector, but they have also enjoyed a longer period of deferment before the increase.

It is also wrong because they are threatening this action over Christmas, which is blackmail, particularly given the memories of the horrendous water problems in Christmas 2010.

These are modest changes to pensions that will have to happen so that the pensions burden does not cripple the younger generation.