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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 March 2008

Pay more to get less

In 2006 the railway trade unions, Aslef, RMT and TSSA, threatened industrial action to defend our pensions. The issue was deferred by establishing the Railways Pensions Commission to investigate and produce a report.

Two of the three people on the Commission have links to the trade union movement and their report has now been published. Did these links to the trade unions make any difference? None whatsoever.

For instance the train drivers' union Aslef wanted four key issues examined: Cap employee contributions at 10.56%, which was the rate under British Rail. Keep current benefits, no reductions. Reduce the number of schemes from 103 to three. All employees to have access to the scheme.

The Commission failed to even address let alone resolve these issues. Even Keith Norman, general secretary of Aslef says the Commission's proposals: "Vary only to the degree to which Aslef disagrees with them".

The report basically comes to the conclusion that rail workers must pay in more in order to get less.

True, the report includes graphs, bullet points, talk of transfer values and investment strategies and calibration mechanisms. But it all apparently means we expect too much.

It says: "The net result will be that members, on average, are no worse off, in terms of the value of benefits that are accrued on their behalf, although the income that this can provide will be lower as it has to be spread over a longer period". Try asking to pay your electricity bill over a longer period.

There is clearly no prospect of gaining pension justice for railworkers with this report. Rail trade unionists must urgently press the unions to take united action to defend our pensions by any means necessary.

An Aslef member

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