WHSmith chief executive Kate Swann has angered union Unite after securing a maximum bonus payout after removing staff’s long-standing pension benefits.

The retailer made a£2 million annual saving by closing the final salary pension scheme to its 1,800 members last year. This meant Swann secured a maximum bonus payout of£2.45 million.

If the scheme had not closed, WHSmith would have missed the profit target under Swann’s three-year management investment plan, set up in 2004.

According to The Daily Telegraph, WHSmith confirmed Swann’s bonus would have been£120,000 lower had the pension scheme been left open.

Unite national officer Ann Field said: “She’s one of a long list of company directors who have made their money on the backs of others. She’s brought it to a new low, though, earning a bonus by destroying other people’s pensions.”

In Swann’s five years at the helm, she has aggressively cut costs amid falling sales to improve profitability. A WHSmith spokesman said the pension scheme closure “was not a cost-saving exercise. It was to manage the risk in the scheme and protect its long-term future”.

WHSmith said it paid£282 million into the scheme over the past four years to remove the£250 million pension deficit. It is committed to a further£10 million of annual funding for the next four years. However, Unite said the retailer had previously taken a “12-year pension holiday”.