Negotiate on pensions or face disruption

Negotiate on pensions or face disruption

Professional civil servants had a clear message for government after the Hutton report on public service pensions was published: “Consult, consult, consult.”

On behalf of 121,000 professionals and specialists in both the public and private sector, Prospect union called on ministers to heed Hutton’s warning not to impose change.

“Hutton is very clear that government must consult over its reforms and that the accrued rights of staff must be protected. Without the consent of employees any new package will be doomed to failure,” said Dai Hudd, Deputy General Secretary.

“Many of Hutton’s proposed reforms are already in place for new entrants to the civil service. How his proposals might be extended to existing staff must be for negotiations between them and the employer. Otherwise it will be too much, too soon and there will be huge industrial disruption.”

Moves recommended by Hutton to raise the normal pension age to 65, for career average benefits and for setting a cost ceiling on schemes have already been implemented in the civil service. Over 100,000 civil servants are already in the nuvos career average scheme.

But Hudd said the Chancellor’s intention to raise contributions by 3% was grossly unfair. “On top of a pay freeze, job cuts and rising inflation, this is a recipe for real hardship among lower and middle-earning public servants.

“There are simply no grounds for this increase. The fact is that Hutton accepts that public service pensions are not gold-plated, that half of all pensions are worth less than £5,600 and that the costs of these pensions will fall, not rise, over time. A rise in contributions is simply a vindictive, short-term swipe at public servants who did nothing to generate the fiscal deficit.”

Any shortfall in retirement incomes would have to be made up from state benefits which are paid from the public purse, Hudd stressed. “There is simply no demand from the public for these measures. Most members of the public think that public service pensions should be increased, not cut, as our YouGov poll showed yesterday.”