Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/492/2534
Civil service pensions
PCS leadership recommends new deal to members
THE CIVIL service union PCS National Executive Committee (NEC) have agreed to recommend to members, in a ballot next month, the government's offer on pension arrangements for new staff starting from 30 July. The offer also contains some improvements for existing staff.
Mark Baker, PCS NEC, personal capacity
In 2004 the government proposed increasing the pension age to 65 from July 2006 for new entrants and 2013 for all staff. Following a massive campaign, including industrial action, the proposals for all staff were withdrawn. If there had been a united battle of all public-sector workers, coming together in a 24 hour general strike, the proposal to raise the pension age for new staff could have been defeated. However, the PCS was left to fight by itself for its members, which meant that while we achieved more than other unions, we were also forced into making a concession on the pension age for new entrants. Nevertheless, we have achieved substantial improvements for new entrants, and will continue to campaign for more in the future.
Unions representing teachers and health workers signed deals for new entrants which agreed to increase employee contributions to their pension schemes in the future. Local government workers were left out of the deal altogether. PCS represents mainly low-paid civil service workers and we were keen to see that the new entrants' scheme, even with the higher pensionable age of 65, genuinely redistributed wealth towards the lower-paid.
The higher accrual rate (rate of build up) based on a career average rather than final salary scheme means that it does. This also benefits part-time workers and those with shorter service. The majority of our members now come into these categories, particularly with the opportunities of a life-long career with plenty of promotion opportunities in the civil service not being as widely available as in the past.
The new deal offers accrual rates of 2.3% - the best anywhere in the public sector, except for MPs and judges. This is an increase in the maximum accrual from two-thirds to 75% of pensionable earnings. There is no increase in employee contributions but with a review of this in the future and more flexibility for members to access pension benefits between the ages of 55 and 75.
The deal also includes improvements for existing staff such as increasing the maximum accrual time from 40 to 45 years and the opportunity to convert more of the annual pension payments into a lump sum payment on retirement. Also, for the first time trade union representatives will make up half the review body, which will allow us to have a greater say on how the scheme develops in the future.
When you consider that in 2004, the government were insistent that the pension age must be increased for everyone, that current pension arrangements were unsustainable and savings had to be found and that these were "not negotiable" what is before us now represents a series of very significant achievements.
We know that when Brown becomes prime minister he will come back and try to attack our pensions again so tying up this agreement now is particularly important. It also demonstrates that the tough negotiating position which PCS adopted, compared to other unions, backed by the ability to deliver industrial action where necessary, pays off. This will be important in our continuing fight against job cuts, contracting out and Brown's 2% public-sector pay cap.
Only three members of the NEC, all members of the Socialist Workers Party, voted against recommending the offer. They put forward no alternative strategy in the extremely unlikely event of its rejection by members.
They have consistently attacked the deal, despite acknowledging that it is better than those achieved by other unions and recognising that even what is on the table now has been achieved through a political and industrial campaigning strategy. This is sheer irresponsible posturing and demagogy on their part.
It will be clear to members that, despite the increase in the pension age to 65, there are a number of benefits which would not have been possible without the campaigning activity carried out by PCS' left socialist leadership.
In The Socialist 21 June 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
War and terrorism
Socialist students and ISR
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news