Pensions: national forum will receive report of final discussions

Executive outlines consultation process for final pensions offer

Prospect is to call a consultative forum within six to eight weeks to consider the outcome of the negotiations on a new pension scheme for the civil service.

Representatives from all 91 branches in the union's civil service sector will be invited to a national meeting to explain the proposals as soon as the shape of the final offer is known.

Meeting today in London, the civil service executive reviewed progress in the first round of talks held since the government presented its 'heads of agreement' on changes to the pension scheme on 19 December.

Representatives reported back on the continued strength of feeling at branch and section level from members anxious at the impact of the pension changes and most of all at the impact on their standard of living of the hikes in contributions due to be phased in from April.

Deputy general secretary Dai Hudd warned that the government had made clear it would not drop its core agenda for changes to the civil service and other public sector schemes, despite the success of the 30 November protest.

Equally, the executive made it clear that although they had given approval for further talks, in the absence of any further detail there could be no agreement or recommendation to members at this stage.

But Hudd said there remained scope to negotiate improvements to the package in a range of areas which were now under discussion with the Cabinet Office.

"We are pressing for costings and several sets of data which are now being assembled by officials," he said. "Intensive talks will then be held before we take the results back to a special meeting of the executive in mid-February."

He expected the executive's view to guide the debate at the consultation meeting in March but ultimately, he stressed, the final verdict would rest with an all-members' ballot after that meeting.

The sector executive reiterated that it has not agreed the government's 'heads of agreement' put forward in December and would continue to seek changes to all parts of the package.

As the rate of meetings picks up after the new year lull, special meetings of executive members will be held to review progress. The next full executive meeting is scheduled for the week beginning 13 February, subject to progress towards a final offer.

Today's meeting also heard reports on the different sets of scheme-specific talks being held on pensions by unions across the public sector.

Stop press: A date has been set for the appeal by Prospect and other unions against the legal ruling on the government's RPI-CPI switch. It will be heard in the Court of Appeal on 20-21 February.