Just how bad does the occupational pensions crisis have to get before a system that was once the envy of the industrialised world collapses and leaves a trail of bankrupted companies and impoverished pensioners in its wake?

Does that sound melodramatic? Over the top? I hope so.

But as a trustee of The Birmingham Post's pension scheme, I and hundreds of others throughout the country have just been put on alert to the latest liability-dodging scam dreamt up by some companies and their less-than-scrupulous advisers.

This involves companies shunting responsibility for their deficit-laden pension schemes on to an associated business that does not have the cash to finance current liabilities let alone meet its responsibilities under Section 75 of the Pensions Act 1995.

Section 75 decrees that employers looking to formally wind up a scheme - an inevitable consequence, sooner or later, of closing a scheme to new members as hundreds have done - must make good any deficit before handing it over to an insurance company to pay out accrued benefits.

Not surprisingly, some companies are looking for a nifty way out by dumping their liabilities on to dormant subsidiaries.

It might seem the concept of a company pension as a long term contract between employer and employee is dying.

Some companies, however, are honourably and dutifully shouldering the burden and only five cases have so far emerged in which directors have attempted to offload their schemes in this underhand way. But it's a no-brainer that many more must be considering it.

The regulator's on the case, however, and trustees have been told to watch out for this and other moves that potentially jeopardise their funds and the accrued benefits due to members that we are legally obliged to safeguard.

But trustees, of course, are the fund members' last line of defence.

What is really needed, of course, is concerted action to drag occupational schemes off the rocks in the first place.

An acknowledgement from the Government that there is a problem would be a welcome start. But even that is unlikely bearing in mind this is an administration dominated by a chancellor and would-be prime minister who began the wrecking process with his vicious £5 billion-a-year tax raid on pension funds back in 1997.

To MPs and feather-bedded public sector workers who blithely expect taxpayers to keep them in comfort in their old age it's not a problem.

But the rot goes even further and much deeper.

Schemes are also struggling to recover from one of the longest equities bear markets in history as well as having to shoulder ever higher regulatory costs.

Throw in the fact that companies have been put u nder the cosh by an accountancy regime that requires them to carry their long-term liabilities on their balance sheets and it is little wonder that the UK has seen one of the world's healthiest occupational pension systems virtually collapse in under ten years.