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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 December 2011

Public sector pensions - where now?

Fran Heathcote, PCS DWP national organiser, personal capacity

The high court ruled on 2 December that the government was entitled to switch the measure of inflation used for calculating pensions etc from the traditionally higher retail prices index (RPI) to the consumer prices index (CPI).

Chancellor George Osborne claimed CPI was more 'appropriate'. But the unions have always said it was a deficit reduction measure and therefore unlawful under social security legislation which does not allow the government to use national economic situations when deciding the best estimate of price increases.

The switch to RPI, announced in June 2010 without any consultation or negotiation, was challenged by a judicial review brought about by six unions - the FBU, NASUWT, POA, PCS, Unison and Unite.

All of the judges agreed that deficit reduction was the motivation, but two of them said it was right to take public finances into account. The figures in September put RPI at 5.6% and CPI at 5.2% and the government intends to use CPI in 2012 for the first time to calculate pension increases, resulting in a loss of about 15%. Ministers have so far refused to even negotiate on this issue.

The unions involved are pleased that the argument that the chancellor was motivated by deficit reduction was accepted and intend to urgently lodge an appeal on this issue.

The focus of our campaign now though has to be on fair pensions for all. We need to escalate the action with as much unity with other unions, both public sector and private as possible.

We need to engage as many other unions as possible into calling on the TUC to name the day for the next strike. Escalation could mean simply getting more unions on board. Given the successful strike of private sector Unilever employees, there is real potential for public sector and private sector workers to stand together under the banner Fair Pensions For All.

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In The Socialist 14 December 2011:


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