Maritime Super, the first industry superannuation fund established in Australia, has turned 50, creating a significant benchmark in measuring the benefits of the industry fund movement to members and the economy.
Maritime Super’s history demonstrates the significant benefits in terms of dignity, peace of mind and security in retirement delivered to generations of working Australians by compulsory super, its chair Paddy Crumlin said.
Fifty years ago, maritime workers retired with their last pay cheque. But after half a century of operation, but Maritime Super members now retire with on average $480,000 in super.
That’s well above the national average retirement of $322,000 for men and $180,000 for women set by a universal super system that has been in place only since 1992.
Mr Crumlin described how workplace consultation in the maritime industry lead to the emergence of the current industry fund model. Back in 1967 the maritime unions, along with industry employers, established a pension funded by employers and by the workers that saw employers contribute 1.5 times the employee’s contribution rate.
“Superannuation for wharfies and seafarers was negotiated with employers as part of a social package on the introduction of new technologies and a great reduction in the workforce,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Superannuation has continued to be an effective focus for social dialogue between unions and their members and employers for 50 years, including during difficult industrial periods such as the Patrick dispute [in 1998].”
In addition to being the first industry super fund in Australia, Maritime Super was also among the first funds to appoint independent trustees, Mr Crumlin said.
“This long, functional and successful history has secured the retirement benefits of tens of thousands of maritime workers and their families in that period and has been an integral part of building a productive and functional industry for both corporate interests and their employees.”
Approximately 75 per cent of members take up a pension with Maritime Super on retirement meaning the fund has over 5,000 pension members. In the past 10 years it has paid around $2.5 billion in benefits to members.
Maritime Super Chief Executive Peter Robertson said the fund “was a pioneer in its approach to help maritime workers save for their future – establishing the first industry super fund in 1967”.
“In the 70s just over a third of the workforce had some form of super. In the 80s the Australian Industrial Relations Commission decided that workers covered by some awards should be provided with 3 per cent super, but not all workers were eligible,” Mr Robinson said.
“It was not until 1992, 25 years after the establishment of Maritime Super, that the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) was introduced, making super a compulsory entitlement for all Australians.
“Our members are all too aware of how past generations of maritime workers retired with next to nothing.”
Mr Crumlin said current moves to change governance and and default fund arrangements threatened the successful model of industry cooperation in super.
“Over a 19 year period, industry super fund outperformance added around $51 billion to national super savings.”
By 2030 super assets are predicted to by larger than the assets of the commercial banks making the area increasingly contestable, Mr Crumlin said.
“Now more than ever industry super funds need to work together for the collective interests of our members, and the future prosperity of the Australian economy.”