Govt AE policies ‘failing’ construction workers – Unite

The government’s auto-enrolment (AE) policies are “failing” employees in the construction sector, Unite has said.

A freedom of information (FOI) request by the UK’s largest union found that just 23 per cent of ‘blue collar’ construction workers are participating in a workplace pension scheme.

The Office for National Statistics estimated that there are 1.5 million blue collar construction workers, defined as skilled trade occupations, elementary occupations and process, plant, and machine operatives.

Department of Work and Pensions figures, revealed by the FOI, showed that there are 349,000 blue collar construction workers saving into a workplace scheme.

“These figures show that the government’s AE policies are failing construction workers,” said Unite assistance general secretary, Gail Cartmail.

“This failure will result in hundreds of thousands of construction workers being forced into poverty when they retire.”

Unite noted that “rampant bogus self-employment” was negatively affecting construction workers’ pension policies, with roughly half of blue collar construction workers being officially registered as self-employed and therefore not eligible for AE schemes.

The union also argued that the use of umbrella companies, where workers are required to contribute both employers’ and employees’ pension contributions, make them unaffordable for workers, with employers having a “hostility” to paying contributions.

Finally, it said that short-term engagements were resulting in workers believing it was not work making pension contributions.

Cartmail added: “Rather than tackle the factors which make it difficult or impossible for construction workers to contribute to the auto-enrolment pension regime, the government has acted like an ostrich and chosen to ignore the problem.

“Until rampant casualisation and bogus self-employment are tackled in the construction industry, workers are not going to be eligible or prepared to register for a workplace pension.”

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