Friday, December 21, 2018
Will our trade unions support age discrimination claims against the public sector pension schemes?
The best day of my working life was 30 November 2011, when I led (locally) the largest and most solid strike I had ever been involved in, as our public service trade unions took united action to defend our pensions. (Though not everyone approved…)
The eventual settlement of that pensions dispute was not something which I was happy with (albeit it was – eventually - supported by ballots of members of most of the unions involved – including UNISON).
Without doubt, part of the reason why members voted for the settlement was because those who were close to retirement were protected (in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) by the “underpin”). Given the higher trade union density among older workers, the trade union leaderships counted upon older workers to protect themselves at the expense of their younger colleagues.
Today, firefighters – and judges (!) – have won a legal case against the age discrimination implicit in protecting from adverse changes to pensions the older workers (who were least impacted) and not the younger workers (who were hardest hit).
The obvious implication of this decision of the Court of Appeal (which the Government will surely seek to appeal to the Supreme Court) is that younger members of public service pension schemes (who were excluded from “transitional protections” as the unions conceded detrimental changes to our pension schemes in 2012) could bring age discrimination claims.
This poses challenges to our trade unions who may be asked to support cases which implicitly criticise the settlements arrived at following ballot results in 2012 – but surely trade union support for claims of age discrimination would be better than leaving the field clear to “no win no fee” solicitors?