13 September 2021

Unions must act together to fight for fair pensions

PCS has called for unions to come together to win fair pay and pensions for public sector workers.

In proposing TUC Congress composite motion 13  PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka condemned the UK government’s continued public sector pay restraint policy and its refusal to address public sector pension deficiencies.

He paid tribute to education staff, NHS staff, Local Government staff, brave PCS front line workers who “delivered on health and safety, delivering 3 million claims to universal credit, furlough scheme kept our justice system running and our ports and airports open.”

“The people we're talking about here are the key public sector people who helped and delivered for this country during the pandemic,” he said.

The government’s public sector pay policies have resulted in the value of the average public sector worker’s pay falling over the last 10 years; workers are working harder and more flexibly, for less pay in real terms. Long-term pay restraint is having a detrimental impact on the living standards of workers and it is compounded by rising inflation.

Evidence from the first round of scheme valuations in the public sector does not support the claim that future pension costs in the public services are unaffordable, representing a risk to the public finances.

Mark called for a campaign:

  • To improve the value of public sector pensions
  • For the immediate honouring of the public sector pension cost-sharing arrangement measures
  • For a reduction in the state pension age, and in the normal pension age for public sector schemes.

Mark stressed that occupational pensions are not a privilege but an essential part of the UK system and a key defence against pensioner poverty.

“The public service schemes are not gold-plated but they are a benchmark against which future plans to provide continuing income can be judged. On any reckoning the alternatives available so far under auto-enrolment are fall short and are failing to safeguard younger workers who will be the pensioners of the future,” he said.

Mark unions need to come together as they did during the TUC pensions campaign a decade ago.

“If 68 was too late when we started campaigning, it is certainly too late now, and we know as one of the tragic consequences of the pandemic is the predictions that everybody would live longer is sadly not true for hundreds of thousands of people we represent,” he said.

“In all of our unions let's get into the workplace, build our density, build our participation, recruit new members, and combine our activities. If we stand together, we can win on pay, we can win on pensions.”

Speakers condemned the government for ripping up the pensions cost-sharing agreement for public sector schemes and for treating the cost of the McCloud/Sargeant remedy as a member cost, ensuring that the bill must be met entirely by the scheme members.

Heather Hughes from EIS seconded the motion and said: “Public sector pensions must be restored, and the values improved. Members of pension scheme must not be the ones to pay for the govt's discriminatory policies, nor attempt to balance the public debt especially those caused by the reckless behaviour of banks

The motion, which was carried, welcomed the legal action being taken forward jointly by unions, including PCS to challenge these scandalous government actions, and called on the TUC’s General Council to coordinate union campaigning on public sector pensions.

Register for the online PCS pensions fringe at 12.30pm tomorrow.

The open sessions of Congress are being streamed live on the TUC website.

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