Unite and GMB say pensions ‘diktat’ simply shifts burden to middle-earners


Unions have dismissed the government’s latest pensions offer as a “smash and grab” raid on middle-income NHS employees.

Condemning the Treasury’s divide and rule tactics, Unite and GMB have described the move as “misleading” and “a moving round of the furniture”.

The government’s offer means health staff earning less than £26,50 would be spared any rise in pension contributions next year, with the shortfall instead being passed onto more highly-paid staff, such as health visitors, speech and language therapists, biomedical scientists and pharmacists. It is not clear what will happen in future years.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, said: “These are tawdry ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics designed to set one set of dedicated hard-working NHS workers against another.

“Once again the government is attempting to mislead the workforce and the public about the true impact of their proposals. The harsh reality of what the government is pushing today is that middle earners – the ‘squeezed middle’ – will be the ones paying for these increased contributions in this ‘smash-and-grab raid’. “This increase will range between 1.5 per cent – 2.4 per cent which has to be seen in the context of a public sector pay freeze.

“This is an unfair tax on middle earners, as the revenue will go straight to the Treasury to pay off the national budget deficit caused by the banking elite and not ploughed back into the scheme. In its haste to sell this as good news, government is also failing to state what it plans for years two and three. It will press on as before, so this is a swindle and a short-lived one at that.’

“Further, ministers must stop bypassing the agreed negotiating channels. The correct place to discuss proposals is around the table, not via the airwaves. This is another cynical attempt to turn the public away from supporting those who deliver their services. It won’t succeed. It should not be forgotten that the NHS pension scheme is self-funding and at present collects £2 billion more in contributions than it pays out in benefits.”

Rehana Azam, GMB National Officer for NHS, said: “This movement in NHS pensions is not enough to settle the pensions dispute. This move merely represents a moving round of the furniture and does not represent any change in government policy to unfairly tax public sector workers who are saving for their retirement.  In making this change there will be winners and losers.  Department of Health are trying to muddle through what is effectively a diktat from Treasury to make a short term gain from pension savers.

“Short termism in pensions policy is doomed to failure as GMB has repeatedly warned.  The government’s end game will see NHS staff paying on average nearly 10% of pay towards their pension scheme.  This compares with average contributions of 5.3% in private sector defined benefit schemes.

“GMB repeats its call to government to approach discussions in good faith on all aspects of pension reform with the same open minded approach as is being adopted by the trade unions.  GMB would remind government that their duty, as an employer, is to consult and inform their employees and their representatives of fundamental changes to their terms and conditions, rather than making announcements in the media.”

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