Union calls for joint action on govt public pensions ‘u-turn’

Public and Communication Services Union (PCS) is calling for a joint campaign against the government’s decision to pause its valuation of the public pension services.

The government made its decision after a defeat in the Court of Appeal left it with increased pensions costs of around £4bn a year.

The ruling, handed down in December 2018, relates to ages discrimination after reforms were made to both the judges’ and firefighters’ defined benefit pension schemes.

As a result, PCS said it will be working with other public service trade unions, via the Trade Congress Union, “to ensure that our message and that of others is properly heard”.

In a statement PCS wrote: “The government is arguing that, as it believes that there is a potential read-across of this ruling to other pension schemes, ‘it is not now possible to assess the value of the current public service pension arrangements with any certainty’.

“This is despite the fact that in early January it seemed that final recommendations would soon be put to the government for proposals to be made and to be followed by consultation with PCS and other unions.

“The government has given no indication of when negotiations will restart and importantly no idea of when, or if, members will have any gains arising from this revaluation.”

In 2011, the coalition government undertook a reform the public sector pension schemes, which required scheme valuations every four years, as well as imposing a cost cap of 18.5 per cent.

Following this first valuation completed in 2018, a downward breach of the cost cap of 5.4 per cent was declared, meaning members would have gained reduced contributions of 2 per cent, increased accrual rate for Alpha pensions and improved death-in-service benefits.

However, following the government pause these benefits are now in doubt.

TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak said: "Public sector workers have had years of real-terms pay cuts and job losses. They now face the danger of the government breaking its promises on pension benefits.

“Public sector pension schemes have been cheaper than expected. Under the agreed rules, which the government committed to for 25 years, this should mean lower contributions or improved pensions for members.

“But halting the valuation process leaves this in jeopardy. The government needs to stick to its own rules and deliver what it pledged.”

TUC added that it could not comment on joint union actions at this time.

Commenting on the Court of Appeal decision, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Elizabeth Truss, said that the government is “seeking permission to appeal this decision”.

She added: “If this is unsuccessful, the court will require steps to be taken to compensate employees who were transferred to the new schemes.”

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