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From: The Socialist issue 989, 4 April 2018: Fight the Tory enemy

Search site for keywords: CWU - Pensions - BT

BT can afford more - reject pensions offer

BT, photo Panhard/CC, photo Panhard/CC

BT, photo Panhard/CC, photo Panhard/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Socialist Party members in CWU

BT has spent 2.7 billion servicing its pension deficit since 2013 - a third of its market value. In the same period it has handed nearly 5 billion to shareholders.

So it sticks in the craw when BT comes to members of the BT pension scheme and says it can no longer afford to fund the deficit.

No wonder then that when BT proposed during the pension consultation that members in the pension scheme would have to pay more for less, there was so much opposition that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was able to use this as leverage to extract more concessions from the employer.

For retirement saving scheme members, BT will now increase the employer contribution. For those leaving the pension scheme and joining the proposed hybrid scheme, BT will pay transitional payments for ten years. All welcome.

Concession

The concession for enhanced payments recognising those members who may be considering retirement is to be supported. Again, welcome.

But, the truth is that for all the talk of these concessions, it's hard not to feel that the CWU could have won more. This is the sum of concession based bargaining where first the final salary, then the career average and now the BT pension scheme in its current form have been lost.

In its place is a proposed hybrid scheme that may not be comparable or have as its target the same terms and conditions as what currently exists.

And the new scheme would be linked to the lower CPI inflation model, not the higher RPI, leaving any scheme more exposed to inflation and periods of rising costs.

So CWU members will see a further reduction in their terms and conditions again. And there is no guarantee that even the defined benefit element of the hybrid scheme would not be attacked in the future if BT was to decide it was "unaffordable". BT has, after all, got form.

CWU should have pressed for an industrial action ballot to defend all pensions and used the mandate to extract further concessions like a fully funded and unified BT pension scheme for all employees.

But why not also go further, to pressure BT to reduce share dividends to the major shareholders and use the savings from this campaign to reduce the pension deficit?

Privatisation

It's clear that, as in other utilities and services, the privatised telecoms model is driving this on relentlessly. The CWU must demand Corbyn-led Labour supports CWU policy and commits to renationalising BT to stop the race to the bottom.

It was only the tremendous strike ballot result by our members that forced Royal Mail into concessions that also included a pay rise of over 12% over three years and a reduction in the working week by two hours. We have to fight now.

Only the threat of industrial action will force the employer back - as we are currently seeing happening in the universities because of the University and College Union strike.







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