ROYAL Mail workers – whose jobs and pensions have been under sustained attack and are now threatened with privatisation – yesterday reacted with fury to reports that £5.13 billion of their pension money was gambled on the ‘futures’ market.
Royal Mail bosses placed Royal Mail at significant risk by allowing such a gigantic, off balance-sheet ‘side bet’.
Royal Mail bosses treated Royal Mail like ‘a hedge fund that happens to deliver letters’.
‘If it’s true and it’s putting people’s future payments in jeopardy, then it’s wrong,’ said Mole Meade, from South-East London Communication Workers Union (CWU).
‘We are opposed to the sell-off the Royal Mail,’ he told News Line.
Retired postman Paul Olden said: ‘It’s scandalous.
‘I’m ex-branch secretary of Eastern No.6 CWU branch. I’m getting my full pension now, but because of the deficit within the pension fund, Royal Mail workers who retire in the future will get a far worse pension than what I’m getting.
‘They’ve had to completely change to a new pension now, with massively reduced benefits.
‘Whereas I got a lump sum and my pension paid monthly, they will not be now getting any lump sum, it will just be a reduced pension that they will be paying into.
‘I got my pension when I was 60, but now they will have to stay on far longer to be eligible for a pension, probably until they are 65, and the workload now is much harder than it used to be.’
The £5.13 billion ‘side bet’ was detailed in the Royal Mail Pension Fund annual accounts for last year, but omitted from the Royal Mail Group Accounts.
A further £2.1 billion from the pension fund was spent in equity derivatives or ‘futures’ in 2008.
Dave Wiltshire, All Trades Union Alliance national secretary, commented: ‘The allegations that Royal Mail pension fund has been gambling on the stock exchange to the tune of £5 billion is disgraceful.
‘This is postal workers’ pensions they are gambling with.
‘Workers have always been told that those responsible for operating the pension funds are bound to invest only in very low risk enterprises.
‘To discover that in Royal Mail they appear to have adopted the methods of hedge funds will come as a real shock.
‘Successive governments have banged on about the black hole in this pension fund, about how its losses make privatisation inevitable.
‘They conveniently forget that the shortfall in the pension fund is due to the fact that for 14 years the employer withheld its contribution to the fund, declaring a “pensions holiday’’ for itself.
‘None of the money saved went back into the company or its workers, it was creamed off by the government of the day.
‘When they now bleat about having to make up the deficit all they are being asked to do is repay some of the billions that went into their coffers.
‘Postal workers have always accepted low pay rates because of the promise of a decent pension and now even this is too much for the capitalist system to bear.’