New Pensions Deal – an Alternative View

This is a text of a leaflet by the PCS Independent Left in relation to the Pension changes which the union is recommending accepting. 

It is accepted throughout the union that New Labour is intent on attacking our jobs, our pay and all other conditions of work. No area is safe from privatisation, including frontline Jobcentre work. The Tories broke up national pay bargaining in the civil service and now the bosses plan to introduce regionalised pay levels.

 The new pensions deal recommended by the Left Unity-led NEC makes new entrants work an extra five years before they can retire on a full pension.  Disgracefully, the key issue of the new normal retirement age hardly merits a mention in the propaganda of LU and the national union. Our existing members are being told to support a fundamental change to the terms and conditions of future civil servants; to support the government’s proposal to make our future members work to a standard pension age of 65 and make them pay for the savings New Labour wants to make.  The maxim “unity is strength” is the basis of many of the union’s conference policies. We fight for a return to national civil service pay not just because it is fair but also because we realise that governments have used delegated pay bargaining to cut living standards and divide the membership. Equally we oppose regional pay proposals since it will further splinter our membership’s ability to fight together. The union leadership rightly call for public sector unity against low pay, cuts and privatisation at the same time as condemning future members to inferior conditions of service.  

Activists should ask, why, when we stand for unity on pay, the NEC urges support for an agreement that establishes division on future worker’s pensions. Pensions are, after all, deferred pay.

 Johnson, the minister that brokered the deal with the unions, predicts that in a decade a majority of civil servants will be on the new pension scheme. In that situation, if the government chooses to attack existing members in relation to the pension age, will member of Nuvos – the new scheme – fight alongside them when they are stuck with it already?  The NEC would not recommend agreement to 65 being the retirement age of existing members. Why then is it acceptable for future members?  It is not as if the proposed agreement is being portrayed as a tactical retreat. On the contrary, according to Left Unity:

“It is without doubt the most significant achievement by the trade union movement in the last twenty years or so.”

This is clearly nonsense. The deal after all concedes the pension age will change to 65 for new starters. It is a fact that this is a big setback for future civil service workers. Agreeing to two-tier conditions for members can’t really be claimed as a high point in the history of trade unions as LU claim.

 The government in 2004 declared it wanted to make dramatic changes to the pension scheme, increasing the pension age to 65.  They were forced to retreat in the face of public sector unity in action, specifically the threat of strike action.  In 2004, the government told us that they wanted to save £2.1 billion from the costs of civil service pensions. In the “offer” letter of December 2006, the Cabinet officer Minister, Pat McFadden confirmed that the same savings will be made as originally intended in the 2004 proposals by reducing the average employer contribution from 19.4% to 18.1% of pensionable pay.  The offer makes clear the government’s intention “to share the effect of the resulting costs increases between employers and employees on a 50:50 basis.  The NEC trumpet the agreement with the government that the deal “will enhance the role of the union in the scheme’s governance.”  The shared responsibility for the pension scheme means for the government that “we are both committed to the concept of shared responsibility for handling cost increases.”  PCS negotiators accept that the government – Labour or Tory – will come for our pensions again and soon. In this case, we can either fight now on a united basis or leave it until we have a membership divided. We say the fight on pensions is not over and our campaign must link together pay, jobs and pensions. Unlike Left Unity we are not pessimists. We believe that members would understand the need to unite to defend the rights of current and future workers.  For these reasons, Independent Left urges you to reject this divisive deal. UNITE AND FIGHT - VOTE NO!

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