More and more construction companies are realising the tightness of the jam they're in. Some, such as Simons Group and Bowmer & Kirkland, have closed their final salary plans to new members and offered them instead a money purchase pension, also known as the you-pays-yer-money-and-you-takes-yer-chance scheme. But worse news is on the way for the workforce: companies are starting to close their final salary schemes to existing members. ROK Property Services and Alfred McAlpine announced this step last week, and Montpellier closed its scheme 18 months ago. One wonders if the staff appreciate the size of the hit they're taking.
The good news is that many workers have begun taking steps to safeguard their retirement. The construction industry is the leading sector in one type of pension provision – the stakeholder scheme. This is a government initiative aimed at those earning less than £30,000 a year who change employer frequently. Since April 2001, 245,000 workers have signed up to the scheme promoted by B&CE, the industry-run pension provider, and the expectation is that workers will be joining at the rate of 40,000 a year.
For those construction employees still in final salary schemes, the future is dubious. One thing, however, is certain: the hope that your employer or the government will look after you in your old age is looking increasingly forlorn.
Thinking inside the boxArchitecture has at last hit the big time – at least on the telly. Filling a great many of the viewing spaces left over after the soaps, shows about architecture have displaced those on gardening, cookery, history and even property (pages 32-37). Home makeovers, historic building restorations and even cool modern architecture are all watched by millions of people. Given that we are a nation of couch potatoes, this is the best publicity architects could ask for. But where does it leave construction as a subject on the box? Still in builder’s-bum-and-rogue-trader territory, sad to say. The industry’s own momentous makeover, Constructing Excellence, has received almost no coverage. If only the industry could become more viewer-friendly, as architecture has done, it could use the medium to present itself in a way that would win over reluctant participants – and reach the schoolkids it desperately needs to impress. So how about telling the nation how Swiss Re got built?
Andy Pearson, deputy editor