UK - BT has denied it is planning to close any of its pension schemes, including the £37.3bn (€47.4bn) defined benefit BT Pension Scheme, following a threat of strike action from unions over the firm's pension review.

The Communication and Workers Union (CWU) warned at its annual conference last week BT needed to engage with the union in order to agree any pension changes, following suggestions that BT might act "unilaterally" and "sideline" the union in negotiations.
Jeannie Drake, deputy general secretary of the CWU, told delegates at the conference: "We're not talking about shoring up pensions for people who are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds - we're talking about preserving the pension rights for the workers who make BT successful."

Her comments follow BT's decision to launch a review of its pension schemes last month, which it claimed has the aim of "ensuring the schemes remain flexible, fair and sustainable for the long term".

However, the CWU suggested BT is seeking to "axe the DB scheme" and to make changes to the benefits of members of both the BT Pension Scheme - which closed to new members in 2001 - and the defined contribution (DC) BT Retirement Plan.

Drake said: "Changes to the pension scheme need to be agreed and a future DB scheme is central to that."

She warned Ian Livingstone, who became chief executive of BT Group on June 1, to engage with the union, as "without the CWU involved in the pensions changes he will face a disastrous first year. If BT moves unilaterally on this, it will face strike action across the UK".

However, a BT spokesman said: "BT has no intention of acting unilaterally. We have already outlined this to the unions and we informed all our staff of the review last month. We have no intention of closing any of the schemes."

BT said it was consulting with both scheme members and the unions on the implementation of the review, and confirmed it is hoping to conclude the process before the next triennial funding valuation begins on December 31 2008.

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