54,000 public servants warn Government on pensions


54,000 public servants warn Government on pensions

Two civil service unions have each agreed to give contingent authority to ballot on industrial action this autumn if the Government does not amend its proposal to impose a pensions levy on civil servants from April 2012.

Talks with the Treasury continue but Prospect, representing 36,000 professionals and specialists, and the FDA, representing 18,000 senior public servants, have made clear that balloting will commence unless progress is made soon. Both unions will work closely through the TUC with other public sector unions.

In a joint statement, Paul Noon, Prospect General Secretary and Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, said:

“Prospect and the FDA have deserved reputations for being prepared to engage and negotiate on the most difficult issues that face our members. We have adopted this approach to the many challenges our members face over the Government’s proposals for pension reform.

“We continue to seek every opportunity to engage in negotiations. However, we believe that pension reform cannot be separated from the overall reward package, and must be considered alongside reform of civil service pay arrangements. Unfortunately, the Government seems unwilling to consider these issues as a whole and engage constructively.

“The imposition of an increase in pension contributions from April 2012 is simply a tax on civil servants and other public sector workers, and has nothing to do with the sustainability of their pension schemes. We recognise that the UK faces a fiscal deficit, but our members are being asked to pay too high a price for the failings of others, at a time of high inflation and a two-year pay freeze.

“The Government has embarked on a consultation process over the increase in contributions. We have no doubt that many thousands of public sector workers will respond to that consultation and reject the rationale for this pensions levy. We urge the Government to listen to civil servants, reconsider its approach, engage in meaningful dialogue about pension provision and address our long-term concerns about civil service pay arrangements.

“If this message falls on deaf ears we are left with no option but to ask our members to demonstrate their strength of feeling through industrial action, probably later in the autumn. We are working closely with other public sector unions whose members face the same issues and will be liaising through the TUC to determine what forms of action will be most effective in influencing Government policy.

“We do not take this action lightly. Our members are committed public servants, often paid substantially less than their private sector counterparts. They have chosen public service as a career and withdrawing that service by taking industrial action does not come readily to them.

“Our members feel they have already demonstrated their commitment to ensuring the sustainability of public sector pensions with the reforms agreed in 2007. These changes continue to deliver real and measurable savings and even the Government accepts that they will significantly reduce the long-term cost of public sector pensions.

“It is time the Government played fair with its own staff, just as it would expect of any other employer.”