Public Sector Pension Rises Will Hit Key Workers, Unions And Doctors Say
Unions have reacted angrily to to plans by the government that could see public sector workers pay up to £3,000 a year more to keep up their pension schemes.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said such rises would only strengthen the resolve of trade unions to go on strike, while the National Teachers Union (NUT) said they would stage action again "if the government does not see sense".
Unison General Secretary, Dave Prentis, criticised the government for putting talks in “jeopardy” by their ”naïve tactics” and apparent lack of negotiating skills.
“We entered into the scheme specific talks on public sector pensions in good faith and we genuinely believe we are making progress, albeit slowly. But these talks are being put in jeopardy by the crude and naïve tactics of government ministers who don’t seem to understand the word negotiate.
"The government must take its responsibilities seriously, and stop treating these talks like some kind of playground game."
Under the new plans detailed by the Cabinet Office more than five million people in public sector pension schemes will see an increase in contributions, with those earning over £100,000 per year paying an additional £3,400 a year for their final salary scheme.
The maximum increase will be 2.4 per cent from April. Only the lowest paid 750,000 staff would escape any increase.
Prentis called the release of the details "totally unhelpful", saying that there would be "no point" in having further meetings if the government position was "set in stone".
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said:
"These highly detailed proposals show that the government has made its mind up and is not negotiating seriously. It makes a mockery of the ongoing talks."
But Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said the plans were "fair and sustainable".
"We are ensuring that those with the broadest shoulders will bear the greatest burden. The lowest paid will be protected, and the highest paid will face the biggest increases.
“This is the start of a process, phased over the next three years, that will help set a fairer balance between what employees and the taxpayer contribute towards public sector pensions. We will continue to discuss with Unions how to achieve the required savings in the following two years as well as the longer term reforms proposed by Lord Hutton.”
The British Medical Association also attacked the plans, claiming that NHS staff would be disproportionately affected by the proposed changes. Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of the BMA attacked the government for introducing a "tax on pensions" and using "megaphone diplomacy" rather than negotiating with doctors.
Dr Meldrum told the BBC's Today Programme: "The NHS pension scheme is going to generate over £10bn surplus over the next five years.
"The NHS scheme went through a major reform three years ago, meaning NHS staff are already paying more than they were and they are contributing higher levels than other public sector workers.