Pension Fund Investments and Trade Union Organisation

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2005 National Delegate Conference
28 February 2005

Conference notes that workers’ pensions and savings are invested in publicly quoted companies around the world. Even after the stock market slump, in 2002, workers’ retirement savings and pension funds totalled more than US$11 trillion.

Large institutional investors, pension funds, insurance companies and mutual funds, together own a majority share in most of the world’s listed companies. Workers with pensions and other savings are therefore the ultimate owners of companies which employ other workers around the globe, and whose managers implement policies that also affect social and environmental conditions.

Where our pension funds invest their assets and how employers use this financing has an impact on the interests of our members, their job security and opportunities, the strength of their local economies, the life of their communities and the quality of their public services.

At a national level, primarily in the United States of America(USA) and Canada, trade unions have been utilising the power of share ownership to facilitate productive exchanges with the management of companies operating in public services and across the general economy. Conference notes that trade unions in the USA and Canada have developed a sophisticated and highly resourced approach to advancing the cause of worker capital.

As a result of the international nature of pension fund investments there has been a growing attempt by national and international trade union bodies to coordinate the investment potential of worker capital, both formally and informally.

Conference reaffirms its support for such work both within UNISON, the Trades Union Congress and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

Conference further notes that the issue of pension fund accountability has been given priority by the current government by increasing the number of member trustees to 50 per cent on private sector funds. The recent Myners review which recommended that trustees should engage with investee companies where it is in the interest of their fund members to do so.

Conference instructs the National Executive Council to review the current work undertaken by the national union so an appropriate level of resources can be applied and the most effective structures can be developed to facilitate UNISON’s involvement with other national unions, national centres and international structures.

Conference recommends further engagement principally with the TUC, also Scottish TUC, Cymru/Wales TUC, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, should take place, primarily to encourage other TUC affiliates to develop joint working and to establish the most appropriate level of resources and organising structures that can be applied within the TUC and across the trade union movement in the UK.

Therefore in the coming years UNISON, its branches, regions and trustees will work to develop a comprehensive program to organise our money in the interest of our members. Along with the national union, UNISON branches should work to develop, train and elect members to become effective trustees of public and private pension funds.