Thursday, October 27, 2016

Our pensions under attack again - from more than one direction



When I started work in local government thirty years ago this was still seen as a sector in which one could expect secure employment. From the late 1980s onwards this ceased to be the case, and trade union activists became sadly familiar with negotiating around – and fighting against – redundancy proposals.
One saving grace of local government employment remained our pension scheme, the fight to create which had been the origin of one of UNISON’s “former partner unions.”
Following disputes provoked by the New Labour Government in the middle of the last decade and – more seriously – by the Coalition Government five years ago, we gave ground on elements of our pension scheme (losing “the rule of 85” in 2008 and switching from final salary to career average in 2014).
At the time of the unsatisfactory settlement of the last dispute, the previous Government pledged not to touch our pension entitlements for another 25 years. I was among those unhappy with how we ended the dispute in 2012, but at least we had the Government’s promise of no more change to come…
This Government is now breaking that promise in more than one way.
The Government’s response to consultation on “public sector exit payment caps”  reveals – as UNISON’s excellent summary  makes clear – that this is about far more than limiting pay-outs to “fat cats”. Workers earning from £25,000 face soon losing the right to an unreduced pension if made redundant above the age of 55 – and all of us, regardless of salary could soon see that minimum age increase to nearer our state pension age.
At the same time as the Government are limiting what we can get out of our pension fund, they are also proposing to take for themselves powers to direct the investment of our pension fund, in line with their policies rather than the interests of pension fund members.
UNISON is rightly encouraging members to write to their MPs to sign up to Early Day Motion 586 (http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2016-17/586) in opposition to this change.
I so wish I had been proven wrong to doubt the wisdom of the settlement of the 2012 pension dispute...

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