PCS challenges government’s strict boundaries on pensions negotiations


The PCS is challenging ministers to explain how pensions negotiations can be said to be ongoing when they have now confirmed so many areas are ruled out of the discussions.

The union is involved in the civil service scheme talks with officials, but strict parameters have been set across all sectors by ministers Francis Maude and Danny Alexander who have not met the unions since 2 November.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Ministers continually claim negotiations are ongoing, but this is sheer hypocrisy because it is clear that the rules have been so firmly set that an agreement would be impossible.

“We will continue to go to all meetings, but we are not interested in talking to officials about how to share the pain, and we need ministers to stop carping from the sidelines and to come back to the table with a serious willingness to discuss the key areas of concern for millions of public servants.”

PCS has been told there is no more money available and this week it was confirmed key areas are non-negotiable, meaning civil and public servants would have to pay more and work longer for less in retirement, and other unions are being told the same.

These include:
Increase in contributions: The average increase must be 3.2%. This is entirely unnecessary because the schemes have been independently assessed as affordable now and in the future – these increases will go to the Treasury to pay off the budget deficit.
Pension age: Despite previous assurances that this could be discussed, ministers say the pension age in all schemes must be linked to the state pension age.

Indexation: All calculations are to be based on the consumer prices index, not earnings as recommended by John Hutton, or the retail prices index as previously before the government imposed a switch in last year’s budget.

They have also ruled out discussing the impact of the public sector pay freeze and the two-year 1% cap that will follow it, or the Treasury’s assumptions that pay rises over the coming decades will average 4.25% with inflation substantially lower. Pay increases are currently 0% and inflation is above 5%.

Ministers are prepared to discuss the limited protection for people within 10 years of retirement – though any money saved can not be used for any other aspect of the scheme – and they will discuss accrual rates, but this is pre-determined by the issues we are not able to discuss and, in addition, they say the negotiations must be concluded by the end of December.

The union’s national executive met this week and confirmed that, if no improved offer is made, it will be proposing further strike action “as early as possible” in the new year.

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