UK - Members of the BT Pension Scheme involved in consultative ballots with the trade unions Connect and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have voted to accept the pension package unveiled by the company earlier this year.

BT initiated a formal 60-day consultation with staff in November on proposed changes to its £40bn (€43bn) defined benefit (DB) scheme, including an increase in retirement age from 60 to 65 and a rise in employee contributions, although BT also intends to improve its contributions to the defined contribution (DC) schemes. (See earlier IPE article: BT consults with staff on pension changes)

Under the proposals the normal retirement age would rise from 60 to 65 from 1 April 2009, although employees leaving BT and retiring before 1 April 2012 will be allowed to retire at age 60 without any actuarial reductions to their benefits, while employee contributions will increase by between 1-2.5% over the next two years, depending on income levels.

Connect and the CWU announced at the time they would be recommending the package to their members and the results of the consultative ballots revealed 84.6% of Connect members and 67% of CWU workers voted to accept the deal.

The unions claimed the turnout for both votes was high, as 40% replied to the CWU postal ballot, and 59% for the e-ballot conducted by Connect, reflecting the "great importance of the pensions issue".

Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary at the CWU, said: "Maintaining the defined benefit pension and improving the defined contribution pensions in BT have been our key objectives in these negotiations. I am pleased that our members have backed the proposed agreement by such a large margin."

Following the results of the ballot both trade unions will jointly sign the agreement on pensions with BT, although detailed discussions on the implementation of the arrangements, which are scheduled to come into effect from 1 April 2009, will continue into next year, with Connect planning to update members with further details of the changes in early 2009.

The changes to the pension funds aim to make the arrangements more "sustainable and affordable", with BT confirming in its interim results in November that the proposed changes could save it £100m a year. (See earlier IPE article: BT pension changes will save €119m a year)

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