Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 16:42 UK

Aviva 'to close final-salary pension scheme'

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The proposal would affect thousands of Aviva employees

Aviva has become the latest major business to announce the planned closure of its final-salary pension scheme.

The insurance company, which also owns the RAC motoring group, has proposed closing its final-salary scheme to 7,600 UK employees on 1 April, 2011.

The Aviva scheme has been closed to new members for nine years, although the RAC scheme remains open.

It described the final-salary scheme as "inequitable and unsustainable".

It said the final-salary element took two-thirds of Aviva's contributions to UK staff pension arrangements, but only one-third of UK staff had the final-salary benefit.

The union Unite says the insurance company plan is a "betrayal" of staff, claiming it means the typical worker will lose a third of expected pension payments.

Deficit

The Aviva and RAC final-salary schemes have a combined deficit of about £3bn, the company said.

PENSION SCHEMES EXPLAINED
Occupational scheme - one organised by an employer
Final-salary scheme - guaranteed pension based on earnings at end of career and length of service. Also called defined benefits
Defined contribution scheme - investment fund, determined by contributions and investment returns, used to buy an annual pension. Also called a money purchase scheme

A 90-day consultation process on the proposed closure was expected to start in June 2010.

"Our proposal would enable us to protect the final salary pension benefits that employees have already built up," said Mark Hodges, UK chief executive of Aviva.

"It would provide a competitive alternative for them and simultaneously reduce the volatile impact of the final salary pension deficit on our business in the long-term.

"It is also crucial that whatever we do is equitable and sustainable for all UK employees, and the current pension arrangements are neither. Our proposals are in keeping with the continuing trend for companies to move to money purchase schemes - these schemes are now the norm, rather than the exception."

Aviva stressed that retired and deferred members would not see any changes.

Trend

The proposals come after a string of businesses announced their intentions to close final-salary schemes to current members.

Construction firm Taylor Wimpey, Trinity Mirror, Pirelli, Fujitsu, Barclays, Morrisons, Vodafone, BMI, Dairy Crest, IBM and Costain all said they planned to do so in the last year.

AA patrol staff are threatening to hold a two-day strike over the Spring bank holiday, starting on 2 May, owing to a dispute over pensions - although its final-salary scheme is planned to remain open.

The AA is part of Acromas, which owns Saga, the travel and financial services company that sells products to people aged over 50. The company wants to put a ceiling on annual rises in pensionable salaries, to raise employee contributions and also to cap the annual rise in pensions paid to 2.5% a year.



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