UK – The head of the umbrella union body, the Trades Union Congress, has called for employers to be compelled to make pension contributions.

Brendan Barber said, in remarks released ahead of the TUC’s annual conference, said employers should be made to “accept their responsibility to provide a decent pension. Enough do it to show it is affordable.” He called for compulsory employer contributions to be phased in.

And he said the TUC was happy for employers to make membership of a quality scheme a condition of employment. He also called for the link between the state pension and earnings to be restored.

“Unions will fight to defend pension benefits,” Barber added. “We will negotiate, we will campaign, and if we have to, we will strike. Only employees without unions to defend them now have employers who can get away with easy cuts to their pensions.”

Barber said: “Westminster and Whitehall are stuffed full of lobbyists for employers, the insurance companies and the financial services industry. Yet those contributing to the pensions they provide would have no voice at all without unions.

“The Pensions Protection Fund, opposed by employers and the financial services industry, would not be about to become law. Pension scheme members who have lost their savings would now be getting no compensation whatsoever.

“We look forward to working with a new Secretary of State. We recognise that much good work has been done by government. The other parties have also realised the importance of pensions.”

Prime Minister Tony Blair was today set to address the conference.