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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 June, 2004, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Thousands march for pension rises
The pensions march passing Parliament
The 'Pay Up For Pensions' piggy-bank joined the rally
Thousands of workers and pensioners marched through London on Saturday to highlight the UK's pensions crisis.

The "Pay Up for Pensions" rally - organised by the TUC - called for a decent retirement for all and a new pensions partnership.

Research by the union shows that low-income workers have been hit hardest by cutbacks in work-based pensions.

A third fewer of those earning under 200 a week now have any pension compared to six years ago, it said.

Scotland Yard estimated 3,000 people took part in the march through central London, but organisers said the number was closer to 10,000.

Pension 'crisis'

It is the first TUC-organised rally to protest against what has been described as "a growing pension crisis" and "a ticking time bomb".

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said it is an issue that is top of the union's concerns.

"We have got something like two million of today's pensioners living below the poverty line.

What is the earnings link?
Introduced in 1974 by Barbara Castle
It ensured that state pensions kept up with the rate at which salaries were rising
In 1980 it was scrapped
If the link with earnings had not been broken in 1980 the basic state pension from April 2004 would have been 113.12 for a single pensioner and 180.90 for a married couple.

"It's getting clearer that millions more are going to face poverty in retirement because ministers are walking away from promises they made," he added.

"We are calling for a new fairer system where everybody plays their part to provide a decent pension for everyone else."

Among the organisers' demands is a long-term guarantee from all the parties that the state pension will keep up with earnings.

This would ensure that state pensions keep up with the rate at which salaries are rising.

The basic state pension earnings link was scrapped by 1980 under Margaret Thatcher. It means more pensioners must now rely on private savings.

Company pensions

Some of those protesting are workers who have lost out through company schemes.

"I've worked my life for a pension," one protester said on Saturday.

"It's my duty to work for the company, it's their duty to provide me with a pension. If they don't provide me with a pension, what do I have to look forward to in my old age?" he asked.

Many firms have cut generous final salary or so-called defined benefit schemes that pay out two-thirds of final salaries at retirement.

They have replaced them with money purchase or defined contribution schemes, which are much less risky and burdensome for employers.

With this type of scheme, the final pension a worker receives varies according to the level of contribution and investment performance. The final payment is not guaranteed or underwritten by the employer.

In addition, an estimated 60,000 workers have lost all or part of their pensions because their company has gone burst.

The BBC's Patrick Bartlett
"The government is giving no ground in its commitment to a means-tested pension"

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