Saturday 17 December 2011

Financial Times confirms danger of pensions sell-out

Today's Financial Times reveals the hopes of the financiers that their millionaires Government can stitch up a deal to sell-off our pensions. But it also shows that the deal is far from done - so please keep up the pressure over the weekend and by building the Lobby of the TUC PSLG at 2pm on Monday afternoon outside Congress House in Great Russell Street.

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FT Report: - Unions pushed to agree pensions deal

The chances of a breakthrough in the dispute over public sector pensions are on a knife-edge as the government pushes for outline agreements on the main changes for teachers, civil servants, health and council workers by Tuesday.

Frantic last-minute negotiations raised the possibility that the alliance of 29 unions that brought more than 1m workers out on strike on November 30 could fragment.

Some union leaders said “significant progress” was being made in talks within the schemes that could avert more industrial action. But the leftwing Public and Commercial Services union said ministers had threatened to throw it out of civil service talks if it did not agree to the main changes by 10am on Monday.

Ministers want to announce “heads of agreement” on each scheme on Tuesday, when Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, or Danny Alexander, Treasury chief secretary – the lead negotiators with the unions – will address the Commons. The government has threatened it may withdraw its latest offer, including protection for those within 10 years of retirement and a more generous rate for accruing pension benefits, unless a preliminary agreement is reached by year-end.

Negotiations are continuing even though the government angered unions on Friday by pressing ahead with raising pension contributions for teachers and civil servants next year, which unions said was “unnecessarily provocative”. Most civil servants and teachers will pay an extra 0.6-2.4 per cent of salary, with the higher paid contributing most. That is the first step in an average 3 percentage-point contribution increase phased in over three years.

Ministers have refused to compromise over the contributions increase and a planned move to schemes linked to the state pension age, based on career average pay rather than final salaries.

Local government employers and unions have agreed a framework that could postpone contribution changes for two years by bundling all the issues together, but are awaiting approval from ministers. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, told members: “I believe that – if agreed – the principles under discussion will provide a very positive framework for negotiations and potentially could lead to no change until 2014.”

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