Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flying piggy banks

You have to wonder what is going on in the minds of those trade unionists engaging in the Hutton review of public sector pensions as if it was a genuine exercise in assessing how to maintain fair and affordable pension provision for millions of public servants.

It's not. It's a softening up exercise ahead of a further assault on our living standards in retirement - and we shouldn't be flagging up elements of our own pension scheme to encourage that assault.

According to the Municipal Journal (http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=news.detail&id=91022), the GMB are backing a career average rather than final salary future for the Local Government Pension Scheme - with support from the employers and (at the least) no opposition from Unison. (That part of the story I am chasing up).

Now I am not opposed to a career average pension in principle. In the abstract it is fairer than a final salary scheme and if we were designing a scheme from scratch on a blank piece of paper it would have much to commend it.

However, we don't live in an abstract world and the concrete reality is that the ConDems don't start with a blank piece of paper but with a straightforward desire to save money and attack our living standards.

According to the MJ "GMB pensions officer Naomi Cooke, said the union would only tolerate a switch to career average-linked retirement pots if the overall value of the LGPS – currently regarded as the 'gold-standard' public pension because of its final-salary structure – remained the same – around 20% of pensionable payroll."

We might as well say that we make such suggestions only on the basis that future pensions are paid from flying piggy banks.

Wake up comrades! The Government have already made a very serious and significant attack upon all our public service pension schemes (http://jonrogers1963.blogspot.com/2010/06/unisons-retired-members-under-attack.html). Year on year the switch from uprating pensions in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will depress pensions and reduce the cost of the scheme. Although this scandal gets a mention on the TUC agenda our trade unions are doing far too little to alert our members to this lifetime reduction in our deferred pay.

The ConDems aren't wondering about how better to share out a fixed pension pot, but how much they can steal from that pot - as indicated by the fact that they have already started.

Rather than offer them suggestions which they will take as cuts (a switch to a career average could be an opportunity to level down pensions in order to align the mean pension with the median rather than the other way round) the unions need to be campaigning urgently amongst our members for the unified national strike action which alone can defend our pensions.

The longer we leave it to take on this Government the better prepared they will be and the weaker we will be. Trade unionists need a boost to our confidence to mount the "fight of our lives" - the discussion we need to be having about pensions is not with Hutton but with our own members, gearing up to fight.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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