13 March 2012
At the end of this week those unions committed to pursuing the case for pensions justice will make the decision whether to call a further 24 hour strike on Wednesday 28th March as part of a broader campaign to force the government to reverse its plans to make public servants pay for the financial and economic crisis caused by reckless banks and financial institutions.
The unions considering strike action include the National Union of Teachers in Britain, the PCS (the largest civil service union in Great Britain), the Universities Colleges Union, UNITE, the Educational Institute of Scotland (the largest teaching union in Scotland). A number of other unions which organise solely in the Scottish and Welsh devolved administration areas are also committed to participating in the day of action. The NIPSA General Council has decided to call a strike of members in the NI Civil Service and related bodies on 28th March if the strike is proceeding. Discussions have also taken place with other unions representing staff in other sectors in Northern Ireland about the prospect of united action on the 28th March but this has been complicated by the position of many unions involved in the sectoral negotiations on pensions. These discussions are ongoing and may result in united trade union industrial action in the Health and Education sectors at some stage later this year on the issue of cuts to jobs and services.
The strike action on 28th March will be part of a developing campaign to build the broadest possible opposition to the government’s plans on pensions. The attack on our pensions is an integral part of the overall austerity agenda being forced upon the population. This austerity agenda includes severe attacks on public services through substantially reduced funding, a complete overhaul of social security benefits including housing benefit which will have a disastrous impact upon low and middle income workers and their families as well as the sick, the unemployed and people with disabilities.
Preparations are being made by NIPSA HQ to serve notice on NI Civil Service Departments and NDPBs which are covered by the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (NI) advising that their employees who are members of NIPSA will be taking strike action on the 28th March. This is in anticipation of a definitive decision by the unions mentioned above at the end of this week. A further bulletin will be issued to branches as soon as a decision is taken which will include details of how we can work to ensure maximum support from members for the action.
Increased Employee Contributions from Next Month
All civil servants and staff in the relevant NDPBs who are members of the PCSPS (NI) will have been notified that additional pensions contributions will be deducted from their April salaries. This is the first tranche of additional employee contributions and it will result in a reduction in take home pay for all those affected. This is effectively a pay cut which will be followed in 2013 and 2014 by further cuts to take home pay. This is totally unacceptable and comes at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has imposed a 1% cap on public sector pay for the years 2012 and 2013.
Potential Legal Challenge in Northern Ireland: NIPSA along with a number of other public sector trade unions is exploring the potential for a legal challenge to the decision to proceed with the deduction of increased employee contributions in April despite the fact that the relevant legislation and regulations are not in place. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has now written to the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson and the Ministers responsible for the Health employee and Teachers Pension Schemes expressing concern that the increases in contributions scheduled for April may be unlawful. These Ministers have been requested to halt these additional deductions pending discussions. They have also been advised that the unions are taking legal advice on the issue.