The Royal Opera House is proposing an overhaul of its pension scheme for technical staff, citing a £16 million deficit and the projected cost of auto-enrolment.
The company has launched a consultation on whether to close its defined benefit scheme, which is based on a proportion of a member’s salary as of 2007, when it was last reviewed. Axeing the scheme would meanmembers could no longer build up additional benefits.
Around 200 stage crew, technical and administration staff who are currently enrolled on the pension plan would have to make alternative saving arrangements for the future.
A decision is expected by early December, with a view to closing the scheme in January next year.
Employees would be able to take up the opera house’s defined contribution scheme, which is calculated from fixed contributions and investment returns, explained an ROH spokesman.
This has been an option since 2007, when the pension scheme now under consultation was closed to new members, he said. “The ROH is proposing this change because of cost and uncertainty,” he added.
“This is due to a deficit from costs rising as people live longer, as well as low interest rates, which increase the liability to the organisation all the time.”
According to the ROH, the deficit level from the scheme has almost tripled in six years – from £5.7 million in 2006 to £16 million in 2012.
The introduction of auto-enrolment, due to start at the ROH in September next year, is also expected to incur extra costs, as the venue will need to contribute a sum of money for each employee unless they choose to opt out. Around half of the 800 staff on the ROH’s payroll are not attached to any of its current pension schemes.
BECTU has branded the proposals “premature”, saying the ROH is yet to formally agree the deficit level with its trustees.
The union has called for the venue to postpone the proposed date of closure, from January to at least April.
A recent post on the BECTU website addressing the issue said it was “far from persuaded” that the proposals would achieve the desired savings.
Gerry Morrissey, the union’s general secretary, said: “BECTU will fight hard to ensure that these talks address the full impact on staff and do not transfer all of the risk associated with future pension providers to our members.”