Thursday 3 November 2011

Pensions talks - updated statement for Lewisham NUT members

The following statement, an edited version of my blog post from yesterday, has been circulated to every Lewisham NUT member today:

Pension talks: Opponent wavers, now's the time to push ahead with action!
Yesterday’s ‘pensions offer’ from the Government shows that our campaigning and the threat of the 30 November strike is having an effect! I will attend an NUT Executive meeting on November 10 and will be able to report back to our Lewisham NUT Pensions Briefing on November 14 with the latest news.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, speaking on behalf of all unions, announced after the talks that the planned strike action on 30 November is still going ahead as things stand: "All of our unions acknowledge that they've made a material move in their position. But we're a long way from a position where we've got offers on the table that might prove acceptable".

What’s clear from yesterday is that the Government is being forced to propose some concessions. With our opponent wavering, now we have to drive ahead with the biggest and strongest action on 30 November - and certainly not take a step back.

However, the concession that they've made so far appears to be minor. In summary:

* It's still 'pay more' - so still a massive pay cut while we suffer a pay freeze and inflation rockets. Teachers will have to pay around 10% of their salaries into pensions - compared to 6.4% now. That's could be around a £150 a month pay cut! Over 50’s have NOT been protected from these increases – we all have to pay more.

* It's still 'get less' – because pensions will be reduced by using career averages and switching to the lower CPI inflation index. For some technicalities, read on: Danny Alexander has told MPs that the 'offer' includes accrual rates of 1/60 - but that's exactly the same rate as already applies in the existing scheme for new entrants - so that's no improvement. It also wouldn’t include the lump-sum that applies to the older 1/80 scheme – so most other teachers will be worse off too. In particular, if your new pension age is 67 or 68 and you decide you can’t work that long, retiring at say 61 or 62 will count as 'early' retirement and you'll get far less - it's roughly a 5% actuarial clawback for each year you retire below your new pension age.

* It's still 'retire older' - unless - and this seems the only real concession, you're over 50, in which case, it seems you would still be allowed to take your pension based on the current scheme without reduction at 60. However, you would still have to pay 50% higher contributions and face a 15% reduction in your pension pot after retirement because of the switch to CPI. The concession isn’t as generous as it sounds because the pension we had already 'banked' before any new pension changes come in was always going to be protected - so this will only be a few years extra protection for teachers already close to retirement. But the Government hopes they can split older from younger teachers with their ‘offer’ - we mustn't allow that to happen.

The Treasury has made no real concession - it's still getting away with cutting the cost of public sector pensions while we pay more to get less. It’s still the same old lies about 'unaffordable' pensions, without any proper valuation to back up their assertions. It's the same old propaganda that we should accept cuts and just be grateful that we're not as badly off as private sector colleagues who have had their pensions stolen off them already.

But the Government may have done us a favour by making their weakness clear. I know some of you have been wondering ‘is there any the point in striking, this government never retreats', because, up to now, there's been little concrete movement to point to. Now there is. But they will need to retreat a lot further than this for us to end our action!

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