Social unrest is possible in the long term if the retirement security and federal deficit issues are not fixed, American Benefits Council President Jim Klein warned Tuesday.

Retirees upset by benefit reductions and workers angered by significantly higher taxes could be a formula for upheaval, said Klein, who leads the largest trade group for employer-sponsored retirement and health plans.

He said one of the ripple effects of the recession on the ability of retirees to live comfortably is that owners of small companies who are worried about their own retirement security are less likely to offer generous pension plans to their workers.

Klein spoke at a Washington, D.C., conference of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the primary trade association for union-negotiated plans that cover industries where employees often work for multiple employers such as in construction, trucking and entertainment.

Looking at the impact of the Affordable Care Act on pensions, he said that the health-care law will commoditize health benefits offered by companies, leading companies to focus more on retirement plans as a competitive advantage to attract the best workers.

The American Benefits Council represents primarily Fortune 500 companies that either sponsor or administer health and retirement benefits covering more than 100 million Americans.