Solidarity Magazine » Pensions Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 RMT confirms Tyne and Wear Metro strike in pensions fight Thu, 24 Nov 2011 16:09:30 +0000 Continue reading ]]> TRANSPORT UNION RMT confirmed today that members on the Tyne and Wear Metro working for DB Regio and Nexus will strike alongside public sector colleagues on the 30th November.

Following a vote of more than 80% in favour all members are to take strike action by not booking on for any turn of duty commencing between 00:01hours and 23:59 hours on Wednesday 30th November 2011.

In addition, all members are to take action short of strike in the form of an Overtime and Rest Day working ban between 00:01hrs and 23:59hrs on Wednesday 30th November 2011.

As well as the Metro the action will also hit ferry services.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

With a massive mandate for action we can expect absolutely rock solid support from our members in the North East on the 30th November.

We will be sending the clearest message to the Government that we will defend our pensions to the hilt. RMT will be there shoulder to shoulder with millions of other public sector workers taking action next week to resist the attack on pensions.

It’s the bankers and the bosses who have gambled with our country’s future and the men and women who make this country tick should not have tolerate a worse pension and be forced to work longer to make up for their mistakes.

RMT members on Tyne and Wear Metro and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary have shown that they are not going to sit back and take this outrageous attempt to consign them to a life of poverty in their old age.

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Royal Fleet Auxiliary vote for industrial action in pensions fight Mon, 21 Nov 2011 15:13:46 +0000 Continue reading ]]> SHIPPING UNION RMT confirmed this morning that members on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary have voted by large margins for strike action and action short of a strike in the dispute over pensions.

In the ballot around 60% voted for strike action and 80% for action short of a strike.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary services the Royal Naval fleet around the world.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary services the Royal Navy in times of both war and peace. It is nothing short of a scandal that brave men and women who risk their lives to get supplies through to the ships in war zones around the world are facing an attack on their pensions by this Government to help bail out the bankers-led financial crisis.

Only this morning we learn that top bankers salaries have risen by 12% while the men and women out on the high seas in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary are expected to stand back and watch their pensions that they have built up down the years take a battering.

RMT National Secretary Steve Todd said:

Our members at the Royal Fleet Auxiliary are angry about this attack on their pensions that would see them pay more, work longer and get less and that anger is reflected in this vote for strike action and action short of a strike.

We are calling upon the Government even at this late stage in the run up to the 30th November to think again and haul back from a position that would see loyal public servants like the RFA staff footing the bill for a crisis cooked up in the boardrooms and on the trading floors of the spivs and the speculators.

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Public Service Pensions – myth and reality Thu, 30 Jun 2011 20:37:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 30th June 2011

Alice Hood TUC

Today seems like a good day to debunk some public service pension myths…

Myth 1: Public service pensions are gold-plated

The Commission firmly rejected the claim that current public service pensions are ‘gold plated.’
Final Hutton Report (p26).

Half of public sector pensions in payment are less than £5,600 a year. In local government half of pensioners get less than £3,000.

A YouGov poll of 2,500 people in February 2011 asked what the average public sector pension should be. The average across all responses was £17,088. Forty-four per cent said it should be more than £15,000. Almost half (49%) of respondents believed the average public sector pension is more than £10,000, and only 23% believe it is less than £10,000.

To see some solid gold pensions, take a look at some of the top private sector boardroom pensions. The TUC’s annual PensionsWatch survey looks at the pensions of top directors in the UK’s biggest companies. Last year’s study found that the top directors had pension pots that would pay out an average of almost £300,000 per year. Directors in the private sector often have separate, more generous pension arrangements than their staff. In the public sector senior managers are in the same schemes as the rest of the workforce.

Myth 2: Public service pensions are unreformed

Two major changes have been made to public sector pensions – one by negotiation and one imposed by the Government. Together they reduced the value of public service pensions by around 25 per cent even before the current negotiations started.

Negotiations with the previous Labour government led to changes to the public service pension schemes that reduced the value of pensions to members by around 10 per cent, according to the interim Hutton report (page 9), and the future costs by around 14% according to the National Audit Office (p.5). Changes included increasing the normal pension age for new members in most of the schemes (and for all members in local government), and in the civil service a new ‘career average’ pension scheme was set up. An important part of the package of changes was ‘cap and share’ arrangements.  These meant that the cost of unexpected increases in life expectancy would only be borne by employers up to a certain cap. After this cap, members would bear the full cost of future increases. Back in 2009 the Treasury estimated that cap and share would save £1 billion a year through increased  contributions from next year onwards.

In June 2010 the Chancellor announced without warning that public service pensions would be uprated according to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI). The switch to linking the indexation of pensions in payment to the CPI measure reduces the value of pensions by a further 15%. A number of unions are currently taking legal action to challenge the decision to cut the value of pensions in this way.

Myth 3: Public sector pensions are unsustainable

How best to measure the costs of commitments that go a long way into the future is controversial. Those who want to claim public sector pensions are unsustainable try to express all these future commitments as if they were a bill that had to be paid today. This produces some scary numbers but is a completely inappropriate measure given the long term nature of pensions.

The NAO and the Hutton Commission both rejected this approach and said that the test of the long term affordability of public sector pensions is what proportion of GDP future payments will require.

The NAO found that even before the switch to CPI indexation the cost was sustainable:

Government projections suggest that the 2007-08 changes are likely to reduce costs to taxpayers of the pension schemes by £67 billion over 50 years, with costs stabilising at around 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or 2% of public expenditure. This would be a significant achievement.

Public Accounts Committee, The impact of the 2007-8 changes to public service pensions

Once CPI indexation is taken into account the proportion falls clearly. The Hutton report (chart 1.B) shows that the central projection of future costs (before any further changes) falls from 1.9% of GDP to 1.4% by 2060.

Myth 4: The government is protecting the low-paid

In Danny Alexander’s speech on 17 June, he said that the government was proposing to limit the contribution increase to those earning more than £15,000, and to cap the increase paid by those on £15,000 to £18,000 a year at 1.5%. So the Government argues that according to their proposals only those earning over £18,000 will bear the full brunt of the increase and those earning under £15,000 won’t pay any of the increase. But in the briefing issued ahead of the the speech is was clear that these figures were based on ‘full time equivalent’ salaries.

The ‘full time equivalent’ point is important because many low-paid staff in the public sector would earn over the £15,000 threshold if they worked full time, but they have low take home pay because they work part-time. So someone who works in a job which if full-time meant they would earn £16,000 a year, but actually works half-time and thus earns £8,000 will not be protected from the increase. We estimate that this could affect over a million part time workers, the vast majority of them women. Nicola and Channel 4’s Fact Check both have more on this

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'Pay more, work longer, get less' remains government position Tue, 28 Jun 2011 13:00:30 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 27 June 2011

Speaking after today’s meeting with ministers over the government’s plans to cut public sector pensions, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“It was disappointing that the meeting proved to be no different to any of the others – it was a farce. Again the government has shown no interest in actually negotiating on any of the key principles at the heart of this dispute.

And this is a dispute that is entirely of the government’s making. We did not ask for pensions to be cut, we did not ask for public servants to be told they must work years longer and pay more for much less in retirement. Every independent analysis shows that public sector pensions are affordable now and in the future, and costs are falling in the long term.

On Thursday (30) we will see hundreds of thousands of civil and public servants on strike and, on the experience of today’s meeting and the last few months of government obstinacy, we fully expect to be joined by millions more in the autumn.”

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Unite's reaction to talks between unions and government on pensions Tue, 28 Jun 2011 12:59:30 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 27 June 2011

Reacting to the outcome of talks held today on pensions (Monday 27 June) between unions representing public sector workers and the government, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, who took part in the talks, said: “In the key areas, there is still a major gap between where the unions and the government stand.

There was a serious risk that the talks could have broken down after Danny Alexander took the decision to try to negotiate through the media. However, we continue to negotiate in good faith but remain convinced that we must make progress on pension contributions, indexation and pension age for our members to find any changes acceptable.

The government still wants our members to pay more and work longer – it refuses to make any compromises.

There has been no movement from the government on pension contribution increases, the link to the rising state pensions and the unions remain at odds with the government over the inflation link change from RPI to CPI.

The government has at least acknowledged that it has not fully understood the funding basis for the local government pension scheme. We welcome that local government unions will now be holding more detailed discussions with the government.

The unions have taken away detailed proposals from the government that we will look at and interrogate. The talks will now continue beyond June and Unite intends to work hard to try to reach a settlement which is acceptable to our members.”

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Dave Prentis and UNISON Tue, 28 Jun 2011 09:57:16 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I find myself in the very unusual position of suggesting a moderate union leader has engaged in infantile ultra-leftism. I’m referring to the claim by Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, that he would ‘mount the most sustained campaign of industrial action the country has seen since the general strike of 1926’.

In the interview given to the Guardian on Saturday 18 June (which it headlined on its front page with ‘Biggest strike for 100 years – union chief’), he continued, saying: ‘It will be the biggest since the general strike’. He then made a ‘call to arms’, telling members to prepare for a campaign of strikes ‘without precedent’ on 21 June (see Guardian 22 June), reiterating his point of the need for ‘sustained’ and ‘indefinite’ action.

Although never a member of the ‘awkward squad’ of union leaders, Prentis is not unknown for making bold and critical statements. But never has he engaged in such bombast and hyperbole before. There are a number of possible explanations for his statements.

One is that he was trying to curry favour with the growing groundswell of opinion within his own union for effective action against the Con-Dem coalition government. The Guardian interview was given just the day before his union’s local government annual conference opened (then followed by the union’s general annual conference). Previously, he had only gone so far as to say Unison would ballot for industrial action on pensions.

Another is that he was trying, especially in the run up to the 30June action that his members are not involved in, to outflank his far left critics who hold some sway inside Unison by bringing them on side, knowing that they would lap up his comments because it is precisely what they want to hear (as the reports in the Guardian 23 June and Socialist Worker 25 June made clear).

A final reason is he was trying to take control of the situation not just within Unison but the whole public sector union movement in the run up to the most widespread action so far against the government’s austerity programme on 30 June (and even though the PCS union has been leading it to date, either by taking action or by arguing for coordination of action).

In the background, the context for these reasons may be that Unison is challenging Unite to be the biggest and most influential union in Britain.

But it is not just that Prentis has made such uncharacteristically exaggerated statements. It is also the case that these statements simply do not add up. But Prentis’ error goes beyond this – not only is the bombast and hyperbole unwarranted, it is also dangerous.

Rhetoric and reality

If Prentis wanted to come close to matching the 1926 parallel, he should recall that 160m days were ‘lost’ to strikes in that year. The miners’ strike accounted for 146m of these. Just for the sake of argument, that means the general strike accounted for 14m strike days over its nine 9-day duration.

Even if the historical clock is not turned quite so far back, he should be aware that in 1979 when most of the ‘winter of discontent’ took place, 29m days were ‘lost’ and in another eleven years (1912, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1984) out of the last 100 more than 10m days were lost to strikes. Yet Prentis is only proposing – when you look at the detail – having regional rolling strikes, where clearly not all of his union members would be on strike on the same day.

Even with 1.2m members in the public sector (out of 1.4m Unison members overall), trying to produce tens of millions of strike days would take his members some considerable time to achieve when conducting rolling regional strikes. With 12 regions, it could take up to two and a half weeks before every Unison member had even been on strike once and 1.2m strikes days had been notched up.

I think his members – even some of the most militant ones – would baulk at taking the amount of action that would be required to notch up 10m strike days or more. Take, for instance, the 27m days ‘lost’ in 1984 as a result of the 1984-1985 miners’ strike which created one of the biggest spikes in strike days since the Second World War. This means that Unison members are extremely unlikely up for this massive level of action and sacrifice.

It makes me recall that the (rolling action) action he is proposing is not even as radical as that of his former union, NALGO, when in 1989 it took action which started with a one-day national strike, then the following week upped the ante to a two-day and was prepared to move the following weeks to three, four and five days a week. NALGO’s strike accounted for much of the 4.1m days ‘lost’ to strikes that year.

If Prentis was not just referring to his willingness to lead his members into said battle but also those in other unions then, of course, the strike days ‘lost’ would mount up more quickly – but not that much more quickly. Most of the other two major (GMB and Unite) unions’ membership is not in the public sector. PCS, which has been at the forefront of taking action and calling for coordination, has balloted over 80% of its members, but that still only accounts for 250,000 workers.

While Prentis could help bring about the involvement of other unions, it is not entirely within his gift, for Unite and the GMB have yet to entirely make clear what they will be doing. Neither of the national leaderships of those unions, especially with regard to the GMB in local government, has so far shown much willingness to take a lead in arguing and organising for industrial action to stop the jobs losses affecting their members in the public sector.

Why this matters

So is this me being overly pedantic as a high-minded academic? Is this about me trying to create a storm in a teacup about nothing much? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Such exaggeration is – as I have already ventured – dangerous. There are a number of reasons for saying this.

First, there is the sense of marching the battle ready troops up the hill, only for them to be marched back down, having never really engaged the enemy on the other side of the hill. Demoralisation and disillusionment are often the result – especially if the compromise that allowed the battle to be called off is not seen as a clean and wholesome victory.

Second, there is the danger of ending up with massive egg-on-your-face if you can’t deliver what you publicly said you would, and this is all the more so if this results in you not winning the battle you said you would. You could end up being weaker than you were before making such a public claim. This chimes with the view of Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, who in an interview with the New Statesman (23 June) commented on his rationale for not using the term ‘general strike’: ‘what you say should have a clear resonance and should be deliverable’.

Third, the 1926 general strike was an abject defeat, bringing about the opportunity for the Tories to legislate for the Trade Disputes Act 1927 (which removed the immunity in tort to unions over industrial action as a result of the 1906 Trade Disputes Act) and for the capitalists to impose their terms for resolving the Great Depression crisis upon the rest of society, namely, immiseration for the majority. The point here is that by raising the stakes so incredibly high, especially when the union movement is generally weak and acquiescent, there is the serious prospect of defeat, glorious or otherwise. The saying ‘cut your cloth according to your means’ is highly salient here.

Fourth, Unison members better be prepared to use up their savings and other reserves – such as they might be – because no £30m Unison strike fund will keep them in strike pay for the length of time that it takes to mount ‘the biggest strikes for 100 years ‘ [Just trying to keep the sentence length down a shade]. This again suggests that Prentis is calling for something he cannot deliver upon. Or, when members realise that £30m will only go so far, they may realise that Prentis is calling for action that they are not prepared to agree to and deliver given the financial sacrifice in the here and now that it would demand. Indeed, when asked in a press conference what he meant by regional action, Prentis said ‘he didn’t want to bring everyone out on the same day because lower-paid workers couldn’t afford it’ according to The Socialist (22 June).

Fifth, Prentis is asking his members metaphorically to go from 0 to 60mph in less than 5 seconds given that the number of strikes in Britain in 2009 and 2010 was less than 100 per year, the lowest it has ever been since records began in 1981. Across both years, just 0.82m days were ‘lost’ due to strikes when only four years in the last 21 years since 1990 have seen more than 1m days ‘lost’ due to strikes. So union members, Unison ones included, are not exactly battle hardened troops that are straining at the leash to take more and greater action.

I’d genuinely love to be proved wrong on all or any of these counts because I’d dearly love to see a strike by workers of the size Prentis has talked about and which, therefore, might be capable of knocking out this government on pensions and more besides. But I’m not convinced I will be. Prentis has made a serious and dangerous miscalculation in pitching the stakes so high. He will have not only frightened and disorientated many troops on his own side but also opened himself and Unison up to ridicule.

Gregor Gall is professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire (



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'Stop the great pensions robbery' Wed, 22 Jun 2011 17:02:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> (22/06/11)

“Lies, damned lies and the inventions of a Tory poodle.” That was how Jane Carolan described what UNISON is facing as she introduced the pensions debate with a statement from the national executive committee (NEC) in Manchester this morning.

And she had particular scorn for “Tory lackey” Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, whose intervention last week suggested that the government is negotiating in bad faith, having already made up its mind what it will do.

She also noted that public sector pensions had “already been future-proofed by the last government – and it would be nice to hear them mention this”.

As the debate itself got under way, speaker after speaker focused on two key points:

  • the need to organise and build for any industrial action;
  • the need to combat the “lies” in much of the mainstream media by educating the public.

Lilian Macer of Scotland said that it was “vital that this government be stopped”.

She reminded delegates that the attacks on public sector pensions are “political”, as they act as “a barrier to privatisation.”

And she added: “If anyone out there thinks that privatisation is a good thing, I have only two words for you – Southern Cross”.

She urged delegates to “organise, agitate and educate to stop the great pensions robbery”.

Rae Voller for the women’s self-organised group called on conference to “end this nightmare – and dream again of a fair society”.

Delegates heard that it was essential not to allow the government and its allies to turn the issue into a them against us, private versus public question, saying that private sector pensions were poor, but would not be helped by a “race to the bottom”.

The importance of involving both young and retired members in campaigning was emphasised, while delegates also heard how Black people would be disproportionately affected by the attacks.

Ash Dhobi for the national Black members committee said that members were being made “to pay for the mistakes made by the bankers and financiers”.

Mark Clifford for the NEC noted that: “No one can do everything – but everyone can do something” to build the campaign.

Clare Williams for the NEC spoke of a “litany of broken promises” and asked: “Are we seriously expecting paramedics, nurses, domestics and porters, doing heavy manual work, to work until 68?”

Manchester local government delegate Steve Swift said that “we need to arm ourselves with the facts” and tell people those facts, as well as responding to inaccuracies in the media.

Gilly Anglin-Jarrett of Northamptonshire called on everyone to “stand together” and urged members to “work on your RMS data, support the motions and do the work”, while John Gray of Greater London stressed the need to “organise carefully”.

Among a raft of specific decisions, conference instructed the NEC to:

  • call on the Labour Link to work to gain a commitment from the Labour Party to repeal the change from RPI to CPI when re-elected;
  • develop a campaign strategy to defend public sector pensions and in support of affordable pensions for all workers;
  • encourage and support regions and branches to campaign locally;
  • raise awareness of the disproportionate impact on women and Black people;
  • campaign to address the myths around public sector pensions that are being generated by the right-wing media.


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1 in 4 Not In Council Pension Thu, 05 May 2011 10:34:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> One in four council workers already opted out of pension scheme shows proposed contribution increases to local government pension schemes would be a disaster.

Government proposals to increase contributions by 3.2% to 9.6% will make this worse, jeopardising the entire Local Government Pension Scheme for its four million members says GMB


A new GMB study shows that the participation rate in the Local Government Pension scheme (LGPS) ranges from a low of 46% in Central Bedfordshire to 99% in Sheffield. In 46 councils one in four or more of all council workers including low earning care workers, teaching assistants, cleaners and support staff are not members of the pension fund. The study also shows that in the five years to 2011 these has been a 7% overall drop in workers participating in the LGPS. Overall 1 in 4 workers elegible to be in the scheme are opted out of the scheme concluding that they cannot afford to be in the Local Government Pension Scheme. The overall participation rates for 118 Councils in England are shown below.

GMB established that data on participation rates in the current Local Government pension scheme using the Freedom of Information Act. GMB says that this data proves that increasing the contribution rate by 3.2% from 6.4% to 9.6%, as part of the proposed £1billion Osborne Pension Tax which is the target Treasury yield from the higher employee contribution rate of 9.6%, will drive thousands more away from pension saving while doing nothing to increase the funding level of the scheme. See Note 1 and 2 below.


Percentage of eligible employees participating in the Local Government Pension Scheme according to responses received from 118 Councils by GMB to a Freedom of Information request.


Central Bedfordshire 46%
Enfield 50%
Darlington 55%
Stockton on Tees 55%
Kingston 56%
Middlesborough 57%
East Sussex 58%
Tower Hamlets 58%
Hertfordshire 59%
Portsmouth 59%
Lancashire 60%
Isles of Scilly 61%
Barking & Dagenham 64%
Dudley 64%
Essex 64%
Plymouth 64%
Bradford 65%
City of London 65%
Slough 65%
Newham 66%
Swindon 66%
Worcestershire 66%
Bristol 67%
Hartlepool 67%
Cornwall 68%
Greenwich 68%
Sandwell 68%
Rutland 69%
Sunderland 69%
Bracknell Forest 70%
Camden 70%
Haringey 70%
Leeds 70%
Luton 70%
Walsall 70%
Bolton 71%
Durham 71%
Liverpool 71%
Windsor & Maidenhead 71%
Brighton 72%
Halton 72%
Hull 72%
West Sussex 72%
North Tyneside 73%
Herefordshire 74%
Lambeth 74%
Hampshire 75%
Isle of Wight 75%
Leicestershire 75%
Redcar 75%
Wandsworth 75%
Kent 76%
Manchester 76%
Warwickshire 76%
Barnet 77%
Bedford 77%
Cheshire West & Chester 77%
City of York 77%
Leicester 77%
Wolverhampton 77%
Kirklees 78%
Medway 78%
North East Lincolnshire 78%
Rochdale 78%
Staffordshire 78%
Telford 78%
Blackpool 79%
Cheshire East 79%
Gateshead 79%
Hammersmith & Fulham 79%
Oxfordshire 79%
Surrey 79%
Waltham Forest 79%
Wokingham 79%
Solihull 80%
South Gloucestershire 80%
Bath & NE Somerset 81%
Buckinghamshire 81%
Milton Keynes 81%
North Yorks CC 81%
Redbridge 81%
Gloucestershire 82%
Sutton 82%
Wirral 82%
Barnsley 83%
Bournemouth 83%
Islington 83%
Northumberland 83%
Peterborough 83%
Sefton 83%
Stoke 83%
Trafford 83%
Birmingham 84%
Doncaster 84%
North Somerset 84%
Ealing 85%
Harrow 85%
Lincolnshire 85%
Nottingham City 85%
Wakefield 85%
Bromley 86%
Calderdale 86%
Cambridgeshire 86%
Rotherham 86%
Southwark 86%
Westminster 86%
Hackney 88%
Hillingdon 88%
Derbyshire 89%
North Lincolnshire 89%
Nottinghamshire 89%
Newcastle 92%
Derby 95%
Lewisham 95%
Somerset 95%
Richmond 96%
Bexley 97%
Sheffield City 99%


Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said:


“Low paid council workers have had a two year pay freeze and are finding it increasingly hard to save for their retirement as our survey shows. Government proposals to increase contributions by 3.2% to 9.6% would make this worse, jeopardising the entire Local Government Pension Scheme for its four million members. We need sustainability and fairness that encourages people to invest in their retirement and not be reliant on welfare benefits.


The Chancellor is insisting on raising £1 billion from the LGPS in a tax that will see central government grants to local authorities cut and contribution income to the scheme plummet as members leave the scheme. In a survey of more than 2,000 scheme members 39% said they would leave the scheme if the average contribution rate increased to 9.6%.


The LGPS pays out on average £4,200 a year to LGPS pensioners, the lowest in the public sector and has an annual positive cash flow of £4 billion. Yet the Chancellor seeks to wipe this out overnight with a doomed policy that will destroy what should be a viable, sustainable means of funding retirement for millions of front line public sector workers.


Government has said that it wants people to save for retirement but is failing to ensure low paid workers stay in their pension scheme. This causes the legacy of under saving that the Turner Commission warned about five years ago, a legacy that will leave millions in poverty in later life.


As the government prepares to introduce auto-enrolment in the private sector it should be examining why 20 years of auto-enrolment to a good quality scheme still leads to a quarter of local authority employees opting out.”


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More than 250,000 public servants to ballot for strike Tue, 12 Apr 2011 17:22:50 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 12 April 2011

More than a quarter of a million civil and public servants could be balloted for a strike over cuts to pensions, jobs and pay.

The union’s ruling national executive agreed unanimously today to move to a vote for national industrial action if the government presses ahead with its plans to make public servants pay for an economic crisis they did not cause.

The decision is subject to endorsement of the union’s annual conference which opens on 18 May. If agreed, the ballot would commence the following week with the first strike possible in June.

The union is encouraging it members to attend their branch meetings in the coming days and weeks in advance of the conference debate.

Members of the University and College Union have already taken strike action over pensions and PCS is talking to other unions about co-ordinating ballots.

The union wants: no detrimental changes to pensions or the civil service redundancy scheme; a strengthening of the Cabinet Office-agreed measures to avoid compulsory redundancies; and an end to the pay freeze and a fair pay rise for all.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka wrote to cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell on 21 December 2010 to raise the union’s concerns over these issues and request a timetable for negotiations. Sir Gus did not respond until 8 February and failed to give any assurances or offer any such timetable.

PCS national president Janice Godrich said: “We are committed to ensuring our members have every opportunity to discuss these important issues before our annual conference next month.

We are widely publicising what our NEC will be asking conference delegates to endorse and we’re urging all our members to attend their branch meetings so their reps can fully represent their views.”

Mark Serwotka said:

At least half a million people marched for the alternative on 26 March, and now we are saying we must be prepared to strike for the alternative.

We are talking to other unions and will seek to ensure that any action we take has the widest possible support to put the maximum pressure on the government to end its ideological attacks on people who everyone acknowledges did nothing to cause the recession.”

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Hutton Problems Mon, 14 Mar 2011 15:28:03 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thursday 10th March 2011

Final Hutton report: more recipe for disaster than blueprint for reform says GMB

Lord Hutton had a real chance to make sure low paid public sector workers have good quality, affordable pension schemes; but in failing to address the key issue of affordability to members, that chance has been wasted says GMB.

The Hutton Commission’s report into public sector pensions is fatally flawed and only adds to the confusion. By ignoring issues of member affordability and accepting the Osborne Pension Tax that will price vast numbers of workers out of pension schemes, Lord Hutton has failed to ensure a sustainable foundation for future pension provision.

Lord Hutton should have listened to the evidence submitted to his Commission not his paymasters in the Treasury when formulating his final report says GMB.

On his specific proposals today, GMB said

1. The proposal to move to career average looks like a trojan horse to reduce benefits to everyone including the low paid.

2. The raising of retirement ages is unrealistic in the current economic climate and will simply mean that pension calculations are reduced.

3. Having a cost ceiling for taxpayers ignores the costs for scheme members who increasingly cannot afford to save.

4. As government seeks to widen the ‘Big Society’ public service workforce, it is unfair that under Hutton’s plan, they would be barred from access to the same pension schemes as their public sector counterparts.

His broad brush ‘principles’ with stipulations on retirement age, cost sharing and benefit structures will fall at the first hurdle because Lord Hutton has failed to take into account the devastating impact government cuts to public sector pensions has already had on the nation’s pension saving. The Osborne Pension tax that seeks to impose an annual £1billion levy on members of the Local Government Pension Scheme (the largest scheme in the country) will decimate the scheme, a danger the LGA, NAPF, Unions and LGPS Pension Funds have all highlighted in recent months. Already 1 in 4 workers eligible for LGPS membership do not join. Most of these workers are low paid women, the group most in need of good quality pension provision. Moving to career average won’t benefit lower earners as Hutton argues if they can’t afford to join the scheme.

Brian Strutton, National Secretary for Public Services said:

“Lord Hutton had a real chance to make sure low paid public sector workers have good quality, affordable pension schemes; but in failing to address the key issue of affordability to members, that chance has been wasted. His career average and retirement age proposals are just smokescreens for more cuts. Hutton’s new report has ignored some of the most important responses to his interim report and hasn’t fully taken account of recent government policy changes on contributions and index linking. As a result, many of his conclusions are questionable and will infuriate public sector workers. It’s not cogent enough to be a blueprint for reform but it might well light the blue touch paper for industrial action.”

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