Union slams Asda pension changes

Asda pension

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) has criticised Asda for changes the supermarket retail giant is making to pension schemes for Northern Irish employees.

Under the proposals put forth by the company in a 60-day consultation document, Asda will no longer match staff contributions.

“This is a really poor way to run a pension scheme, and to no financial benefit of the company,” says Michala Lafferty, Usdaw area organiser. The union has seen around 2,000 Northern Irish staff sign a petition against the changes.

Changes to government legislation regarding pensions come into effect from April this year, with the minimum contribution amounts rising from a total of two percent to five percent. From April 2019, that figure will increase to eight percent.

Companies are dealing with the increase in different ways, and Asda’s proposals suggest each employee pay three percent of the total, with the supermarket giant adding the two percent to pull the company in line with the legislation.

“This is a sector in which employees are paid at the lower end of the scale,” says Lafferty. “”These changes will fall on those employees who will feel it the most.”

Asda has also proposed changes to the death-in-service provision, which would be reduced from four times salary to a single multiple payout.

Speaking to Neighbourhood Retailer, Usdaw’s Lafferty admitted that while Asda has worked well with the union in resolving various disputes and maintaining collective bargaining where other supermarket giants have dropped it, the pension proposal does not seem reflective of the current financial standing of the company.

One of the Big Four in the UK supermarket sector, Asda had a strained 2017, but posted a 0.5 percent quarterly increase in like-for-like sales for the final quarter of the year. In a release published on the company’s corporate website, Roger Burnley, Asda’s president and chief executive officer said: “Our colleagues should be proud of this performance, which is a testament to their hard work during the all-important Christmas trading period.”

But Lafferty believes  the firm, which itself is owned by Walmart should reflect its better performance in the way it offers staff benefits. “Asda is not in a difficult situation,” she says. “This really does just come across as penny pinching. And it comes at a time when retailers have the opportunity to really reward their staff.”

Lafferty also criticises the timing of the proposals: “They’ve had six years to deal with this. It’s very strange that they’d distribute the consultation so close to the time at which the regulation is changing.”

An Asda spokesperson said: “We are currently consulting with our colleagues on proposals to amend our pensions scheme. We are taking all comments and feedback on these proposals seriously before any final decisions are made.”

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