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August 2011 | 09.08.2011
At the time of writing, the POA membership will be finishing the ballot on pensions.
I am hoping that the membership will have overwhelmingly rejected the proposals of the Coalition Government. This will give the National Executive Committee (NEC) confidence in the knowledge that we have your support in going into the scheme design negotiations.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the attacks on our pensions and why we went to ballot. The Coalition Government has already attacked pensioners and public and private sector workers by imposing a calculation to apply annual indexation on the basis of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as opposed to the Retail Price Index (RPI). This decision is still the subject of a legal challenge by the POA and other unions which are affiliated to the TUC. It is envisaged that the hearing will be set in October 2011 at the High Court.
Meanwhile, the intention to levy a three percent rise on contributions from April 2012 on all members of public sector pension schemes - irrespective of the individual funding position, has sparked outrage amongst unions. The POA believes that the reforms to pensions in 2005/06 made the Civil Service Scheme affordable and sustainable with a decent retirement age which did not rip up existing terms and conditions. It also respected the right to pension arrangements for existing staff to take their pension at 55 (pre fresh start) and 60 (post fresh start). The Coalition Government has decided to fan the flames by announcing that the UK population in general must work longer and earn even less, which will bring the real and humiliating prospect of a whole generation of retirees having to live in poverty.
Public sector pension provision should not be a race to the bottom and it should be remembered that pension provision for Prison Officer-related grades within the Civil Service Scheme should not be taken in isolation as it is part of the whole remuneration package.
This is the worst ever attack on public sector terms and conditions. Government also appears to be ignoring the Public Accounts Committee report on the impact of the previous reforms of the schemes. The Accounts Committee believes those reforms placed public service provision on a sustainable footing. Estimates by the Public Accounts Committee suggest there will be substantial savings in taxpayer costs worth £67 billion. The expectation is that the cost of public service pensions as part of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to fall from 1.9 percent in 2010 to 1.4 percent by 2060.Annual Conference policy
Annual Conference policy of course is the following: “Following the publication of the Conservative-led Coalition Government’s response to Lord Hutton’s report into the provisions of public service pensions, Conference instructs the National Executive Committee to ballot all affected members to establish if they accept the Government’s proposals on change. If the membership rejects the Government’s proposals, Conference authorises the Executive to take any and all appropriate action deemed necessary to oppose these proposals/ changes to the provisions of public service pensions.”
You can help our campaign
The Executive will keep the membership updated in negotiations in the coming months as clearly, the proposals so far are unpalatable. The membership can play a vital part in these negotiations by writing to their respective Members of Parliament highlighting the issues on pensions or indeed make an appointment to see them at their surgeries.
This is a vital part of our campaign. Remember if politicians do not hear from you as individuals they will think everything is alright and it is just your National Executive Committee making noises. I urge every single member - irrespective of rank - to write and engage on this important issue.
There should be no division on pension provision. Some commentators and cynical politicians try to divide public service workers from private sector workers. We should not be divided and we won’t be divided. Our battle in the trade union movement is for decent pensions for all. If the attack on decent public service pensions succeeds then that won’t help people in the private sector one iota. In a race to the bottom we are all losers. The POA is not looking for confrontation on this issue we would rather settle the dispute on pensions through negotiation but that negotiation must be fair and genuine otherwise we will rely on the above motion as passed at Conference subject to the outcome of our ballot.