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Page last updated at 07:07 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

'I may have to work beyond 65'

By Callum May
BBC News

Sean tait
Postman Sean Tait is concerned he may now have work past the age of 65

Government plans to sell their stake in Royal Mail have met with angry opposition. But trustees of the company's pension fund have also warned there will be devastating consequences if the sale does not go ahead.

In two weeks, Sean Tait will complete his 35th year of service as a postman. Since the age of 20 he has worked for the Royal Mail in Folkestone, Kent.

"When I joined, everybody said 'You're in a job for life'," he said as dozens of his colleagues climbed down from the coaches delivering them to the protest. "The pension was almost incomparable to other peoples'."

But he said he would not advise young people to begin a career delivering and sorting mail.

"The whole business is totally insecure now. The younger you are, the more changes affect you," he said.

Financial setback

But at 55, the changes haven't even escaped Mr Tait. Royal Mail's final salary pension scheme ended in April 2008, and while the contributions he has already made are safe, he's already suffered a financial setback.

"To get what I would have got at the age of 60 I'm going to have to work into my 61st or 62nd year, and changes planned for the future could mean I've got to work even longer."

He says Monday's warning about the health of Royal Mail pensions made the outlook even worse. "Potentially to get the same pension, I might even have to work past 65."

Royal Mail took a substantial pensions holiday throughout the 1990s
Sean Tait, postal worker

He disagrees with the claim the government's efforts to part-privatise the Royal Mail are the best hope of preserving the pension scheme, saying instead that taxpayers' money should be used to under-write the problems with the pension scheme.

"That would free up the money that the business is currently paying into it, in excess of what it would normally pay," he says.

The postal industry is heavily unionised, and Mr Tait began representing fellow Communication Workers Union members after a year at work.

He's now a divisional representative, covering Kent, Sussex and Surrey.

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This is strictly political and nothing to do with efficiency
Joannie, London

The union blames its members' pension woes on Royal Mail's efforts to save the taxpayer some money.

"Royal Mail took a substantial pensions holiday throughout the 1990s and into the early part of this century. During that time they were paying substantial amounts of money direct to the government," Mr Tait says.

"We've actually been assisting people to pay less tax in the past, and that pension holiday is a major contribution to the problems we've now got.

"The taxpayer gained as a result of that, and now we need something back from them."

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