20 December 2011
The purpose of this bulletin is to update NIPSA members on the latest developments on public service pensions and to explain the position of your union, NIPSA, on these matters.
The UK Government issued an ultimatum to all those unions involved in negotiations on the NHS and the Civil Service Pensions Schemes in Great Britain that if they did not indicate their willingness to recommend the proposals to their members then they would be excluded from any further negotiations on pensions. The unions were told that they had until 3.00 pm yesterday to respond. The Government effectively put a gun to the head of the negotiators. As a consequence a number of unions have indicated their willingness to recommend the changes, albeit under unacceptable duress.
Health Service Pensions
The final offer from the Government includes the following:
A commitment that staff in the Health Service earning between £15,000 and £26,557 will not be required to pay any additional contributions in 2012 only.
Confirmation of the 2 November 2011 announcement that staff within 10 years of pension age will remain in their final salary pension scheme and will be no worse off although they will have to pay additional contributions where appropriate and will have their pension increases uprated by the Consumer Prices Index not the Retail Prices Index. The latter change has already been unilaterally introduced with effect from 1 April this year and will result in a reduction in the amount of pension payable by at least 15%.
Civil Service Pensions
The UK Government has maintained the position that it held prior to 30th November strike. In other words the only concession it is prepared to make is in respect of staff within 10 years of retirement as described above. The Government has refused to negotiate on the most important elements of its plans ie the change from RPI to CPI, the additional employee contributions and an increase in the pension age to 66 with effect from 2020 and 67 from 2026.
Our colleagues in the PCS union, which represents the majority of staff in the UK Civil Service, have rejected the proposals and refused to be intimidated into accepting the Government ultimatum that it recommends the changes to members pensions by 3.00 pm yesterday.
Local Government Pension Scheme
The Government has eventually agreed that the Local Government Pension Scheme, as the only funded scheme, should not form part of the negotiations and should be dealt with separately. The Local Government employers and trade unions in Britain have agreed heads of agreement on issues that need to be considered in negotiations between the parties in respect of the Local Government Pension Scheme.
The main reason why the Government has agreed to this course of action is because it is not possible to divert additional employee contributions to the Treasury as they must be invested in the scheme itself. It is expected that no changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme including additional contributions will take effect until 2014. However it is still the intention of both the employers and the Government to implement by 2014 the proposals contained in the Hutton Report on public service pensions.
All staff in the above schemes will be detrimentally affected by the move to the CPI and by the increase in the pension age to 66 by November 2020 and to 67 by April 2026.
The NIPSA General Council does not accept the changes planned for public service pension schemes nor does it consider the 2 November announcement or the adjustment to the offer for the NHS pension scheme as representing any real improvement. At its meeting on Thursday 15th December 2011 the Council took the view that all the trade unions across the UK should be planning further strike action in the first few months of 2012 in order to build on the momentum generated by the action of over two million public sector workers in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and in England.
Unfortunately yesterday’s developments, summarised above, have undermined the possibility of further united and coordinated strike action across all areas of the public sector on a UK wide basis. The General Council view these developments as potentially squandering the solidarity and strength that was demonstrated on 30th November.
NIPSA will be working with our colleagues in PCS to determine if further action in respect of civil service pensions is possible.
I appreciate that most members will be severely disappointed, to say the least, at this latest turn of events.
Non Pension Issues
NIPSA when it decided to ballot members was conscious that events in Great Britain could undermine the pensions campaign. That was one of the reasons why the NIPSA industrial action ballot covered job cuts and attacks on pay. In the coming period, as the Coalition Government and the NI Executive, proceed to implement further cuts in public spending, the jobs of many public servants who are NIPSA members will be threatened. This means that in addition to job losses by natural wastage and voluntary redundancy many members could well face the prospect of compulsory redundancy. The determination demonstrated by NIPSA members on the 30th November will have sent a strong message to our own NI Executive that NIPSA is more than prepared to take a stand in defence of members’ interests. We are committed to working with other trade unions in the different sectors of the public service in Northern Ireland which are committed to defending members interests.
NIPSA HQ Officials have been asked to liaise with other trade unions in each of the sectors within which we organise to discuss developing campaigns to protect members jobs. Such campaigns could involve strike action and action short of strike action where the jobs of members are threatened or are in jeopardy.