Observation On Pension Deal In Doubt As Unions Backtrack To do this article justice I have included below:
Three major unions have accused Eric Pickles of “undermining” a provisional new deal on public sector pension reforms and have suspended their earlier agreement.
The GMB, Unison and Unite backed out just hours after signing up in principle to “heads of agreement” over changes to the pay outs.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander had earlier told the Commons that 26 out of 28 unions backed the new offer in what appeared to be a significant breakthrough. The changes would mean a shift to a career average arrangement with public sector staff working longer and paying higher contributions, MPs heard.
Mr Alexander insisted it was a “fair deal” and claimed it would save the taxpayer “tens of billions of pounds” in decades to come. Speaking in Afghanistan, Prime Minister David Cameron added: “I’m pleased to see some of the trade unions look like they have settled in terms of the public sector.”
But there was confusion over a letter issued by Mr Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, which apparently sought to impose new conditions – including limiting employer contributions.
The Government immediately said the letter had been withdrawn and Mr Alexander made clear “it is not a position that has been agreed”, but the unions were not satisfied.
In a statement, the three said: “The Local Government Trade Unions have been surprised by the response from Eric Pickles today to the joint proposal from the unions and Local Government Association for reform of the LGPS. “We understand the Secretary of State’s response has subsequently been withdrawn.
In light of this confusion we therefore suspend our agreement and now seek an urgent meeting with government to establish an agreed way forward.” Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, added:
“The proposed way forward for the LGPS, worked out by unions and council leaders, had been shared in advance with government and no problems had been raised.
“It is therefore all the more surprising that as Danny Alexander was announcing our agreement to the House of Commons, his Cabinet colleague Eric Pickles was completely undermining it. I think we need to restore trust and confidence urgently.”
The new plans had also already been rejected by the Public and Commercial Services Union(PCS) who argued that “nothing had changed” since last month’s strike.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We continue to oppose the Government’s attempt to force public servants to pay more and work longer for less. “Public servants should not be forced to pay off a budget deficit caused by the greed and recklessness of bankers and exacerbated by the Tory-led government’s economic incompetence.”
Mr Alexander said the rejection by the PCS was “deeply disappointing”. A Cabinet source later told Sky News that the PCS had not turned up for Monday’s talks and would now not be invited to “any further discussions to agree the final details” of the schemes.
The PCS said it would take legal advice, pointing out that the Government has a legal duty to include all unions under the 2010 Superannuation Act.
Talks between Whitehall officials and unions representing the four public sector pensions schemes covering the NHS, teaching, local government and the civil service were called in an attempt to find a breakthrough before Christmas.
Following the latest setback, the Government said it was urgently trying to resolve any confusion and was “confident” the issue would soon be resolved.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We are in discussion with the unions to resolve any misunderstanding and reassure them that our intentions have not changed. “It would seem the unions have read more into the letter than we intended. We are not imposing any new conditions. To iron out any ambiguity we will issue a new letter.
We are confident this can be quickly resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.
” But Mark Littlewood, the director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, told Sky’s Jeff Randall show there would still be a huge gulf between public sector and private sector pensions. “An agreement has been reached in part because the Government has been so extraordinarily timid,”
he said. “The sort of pensions that have been offered to public sector workers over the years by successive governments have frankly been financially unrealistic.
“Credit to some degree that this government has gone some way to grasping the nettle but really they are only stemming the bleeding.
“This will only perhaps save a few tens of billions of pounds… but we will still be in a situation in which those who work in the public sector have, relatively, enormously more generous pensions that those who work in the private sector.”
Mr Alexander stressed the current deal is the Government’s “final offer” and said legislation would be drafted ahead of a Bill being introduced in the next session of Parliament.
There is an old saying grab what you can while the going is good.
I say to the three big trade unions well done for not agreeing to the so called deal from the coalition as we all know that it is not worth the paper that it is written on.
An attack on one trade union is attacks on all trade unions think back to the coal miners and Wapping strikes under the Conservatives.
For the mature comrades will recall what it was like with the trade unions. Yes there were close shops and there were good and bad practice from shop stewards. For my sins I have seen it done it and wore the t-shirt started of as a steward worked my way up to branch officer then sat on national committees both TUC and union.
The question remains will there be another Winter of discontent and will the public support the strikers. More importantly can the low pay workers afford another day of strike and will there be continue support from the public.
Well I’m of the opinion that if the coalition can find some money for the Olympics and willing to put a grand show then surely the coalition finds some more jam to go with the bread.
Let us not forget the coalition PM has been using personal insults to attack the Leader of the Labour Party over his brother to justify their arguments and blaming Labour for the world crisis this cannot be justified instead they chose to use the American style politics in PMQs. As I have said in my previous article that Labour needs to up it’s game by going on the defensive see https://gordonlyew.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/observation-on-public-sector-pension-deal-outlined-by-government/
On Tuesday lunchtime a self-confident Danny Alexander proclaimed, to loud Tory cheers, that the “deal” with the public-sector unions would save the country billions and billions – he said that twice – that the deal was fair and all the public-sector pensioners would be well off in their (later) retirement.
For good measure he and his Tory supporters cast aspersions on the public-sector workers for being “better off” than their private-sector counterparts. Alexander also claimed that all the unions except the pesky PCS had signed up to the agreement. Cue Lib Dem and Tory – plus a few Labour – MPs castigating PCS.
A few hours later it was all unravelling as the unions quickly distanced themselves from the supposed “agreement.” A lot of PCS members must have been deeply angered by the letter from William Hague, the head of the Civil Service not the Foreign Secretary – yes, there are two of them – stating that unless the union representatives specifically accepted the Civil Service deal they would be deemed to no longer be part of the negotiations. Communities Minister Eric Pickles – a Christmas figure in the Scrooge mould – then cast the whole scheme into doubt when he issued a letter imposing a cap or freeze on employer contributions for local government staff that hadn’t been agreed.
Alexander then furiously backtracked, but the damage was done. However, all of this wrangling cannot disguise the fundamental injustice – the government wants all public-sector workers to work for longer, pay more to get less and to “understand” that Alexander and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude have made them all better off. An average civil servant will have to pay £63 per month more to work for longer to get less. Similar figures apply to all the other schemes.
The coalition must not be allowed to get away with the argument that the economic crisis was somehow caused by greedy pensioners, greedy public-sector workers or those legitimately claiming incapacity or housing benefits or receiving income support or jobseekers’ allowance.
The last parliamentary day of the year was an object lesson in the coalition’s studied hypocrisy and the way its media friends present the reality of divided Britain. The crisis of 2008, which has not yet abated, was created by greedy bankers and lenders, the US property collapse and excessive credit. Britain took a particularly hard hit because successive governments from Thatcher onwards have developed an economy based on financial services, rather than making or growing things.
The financial services sector has led a charmed life in comparison to the rest of the economy. The solution was to “nationalise” the banks and pour “liquidity” (ie money) into the economy for the government to borrow back.
But the public ownership of the banks hardly resulted in joyful demonstrations in the streets or signs saying “managed by the people” outside. The shares are held by a holding company whose duty is to sell them as soon as possible to the private sector, hence the sale of Northern Rock’s best bits to Virgin Money.
This economic orthodoxy is designed to protect the market system, creating huge discrepancies between rich and poor. Then the high priests of economics somehow contrive to blame it all on the profligate public sector and benefits system.
On Monday the Defence Secretary told me that just over £5bn has been committed to building new submarines and weapons manufacturing capability in preparation for a parliamentary decision in 2016 on whether to replace the Trident nuclear missile system.
Just think on that for a second. £5 billion – many believe it is really much more – on a system that has not been approved. I could write the 2016 defence secretary’s speech… “We have invested so much already it would be an irresponsible waste of resources and endanger our national interests not to go ahead with this huge engineering achievement.” We have become a steadily more militarised and securitised society ever since 2001. The powerful public accounts committee issued its report on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs this week.
Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge (below) explained on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme her frustration at not being told by the tax commissioners how much was actually owed by the various big companies the HMRC was negotiating with. She was told it was a matter of “commercial confidentiality.” However estimates of unpaid corporate tax are frequently put at around £25 billion.
The committee heard that the negotiations between HMRC and the big companies’ high-flying corporate suits are really tough – so tough that they have lunch and dinner together and reach an “agreement.”
This is all so sensitive that none of us mere mortals are allowed to know what’s going on. Contrast this with the taxman’s pursuit of small, often struggling, businesses which cannot reach such deals. Or with workers who may have two jobs and when tax is not efficiently collected are given no grace periods. Or those who have been overpaid tax credits and are then made to repay them, often very quickly under great hardship.
On government figures, £9bn has been spent on bringing about death and mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan and £5bn has been spent on Trident. Youth unemployment figures are the highest in 17 years, homelessness is rising fast and pension poverty is increasing. Next year will be a turning point. We will see the austerity measures of southern Europe creeping northwards as unemployment rises and cuts deepen. The real problem is inequality – and need for a wholly different strategy of peace abroad and social justice at home.