By staying united, staying strong and keeping fighting we can win the pensions public sector workers need and deserve, was the powerful conclusion to the PCS public sector pensions fringe at TUC today (10).
Our lunchtime fringe at the Brighton centre heard how unions can ensure members’ public service pensions are honoured. PCS president Fran Heathcote who chaired the meeting opened it by describing pensions as a “key issue for our movement.”
PCS is demanding the government takes urgent action to give tens of thousands of civil servants the pensions reductions they are owed.
Changes made by the government to civil service pensions in 2015 meant that everyone had to work longer to get their pension, pay more and then get less on retirement.
At the time the government promised that in 4 years it would do a pension valuation and if members had overpaid, they would get that money back. The valuation done last year showed that members have massively overpaid.
In a meeting with the Cabinet Office last month, PCS made it clear that the money due to PCS members from the pension valuation – a minimum of 2% every month – should be paid immediately. Their decision to suspend the valuation is unacceptable when members have been overpaying by at least 2% every month.
PCS has demanded from the Cabinet Office that all future pension changes will be negotiated with PCS, and they have agreed.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told the meeting about his union’s successful case brought against the government, that proved that the changes, the so-called Transitional Protection arrangements, brought in to their pensions were discriminatory on the grounds of age, mean that the government must look again at every public sector pension scheme.
Matt explained that the FBU victory benefits all public sector unions because it forces the government to backtrack and potentially have to put up to £4 billion back into the pension schemes and members’ pockets.
Matt Wrack told the meeting: “We’ve said to our members that we will never give up the fight for better pensions. We were never going to sign any agreement that worsened any of our members’ pensions.”
UCU general secretary Jo Grady outlined the action her union has taken and still wants to take to stand up for members’ pensions. She said that strike action across the university sector has put pensions back on the agenda.
She said her union opened strike ballots at UK universities on Monday in rows over pensions, pay, workloads, casualisation and equality.
She said: “Pensions are our deferred pay – we earned it, we deserve it, we demand it.”
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka reminded people of the campaign we ran in 2011.
“We explained to members that they were being asked to pay more, work longer and get less,” he said.
He said the campaign for fair pensions should have simple demands and not be “blinded by the fog of complexity of pensions.”
“From a PCS perspective we take the view that we should divide our campaign into demanding the scheme revaluation should be implemented without delay. We are overpaying for our pensions and we are being robbed of our money but it could be a long process,” he said. “And the other aspect is nobody should be worse off, they should be better off.”
He said that pensions should be linked to other campaigns on pay and defending public services and stressed the importance of unions working together on pensions.
Fran concluded the meeting by saying that the best way to win on pensions is by “staying united, staying strong and to keep fighting.”
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