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Protect defined benefit public service pensions

9 September, 2019
Paul Moloney speaking at TUC

Paul Moloney, the Society's industrial relations manager, spoke in support of composite motion 14 at this year's TUC Congress, making the case to protect the NHS pension and make sure that its defined benefit provision remains in place for all members now and in the future.

"While we congratulate the Fire Brigades Union on their victory in the courts, proving that in their scheme the transition arrangements were discriminatory, we do have to question why the government is so enthusiastic in claiming that this means all public service schemes are guilty of the same discrimination," Paul told delegates.

"That is why the scheme specific talks called for in this composite are essential," Paul continued.

The Society is making the case for the NHS pension scheme to carry out its own assessment of potential age discrimination and for any remedy to be agreed with the Scheme Advisory Board, on which the SoR is represented.

Paul highlighted the danger of government imposed 'one size fits all', which the SoR says, could prove very expensive. This proposal would make the NHS scheme less attractive not only to members but also to employers who are not required by law to offer the scheme to employees but could instead provide much cheaper and poorer pension arrangements in its place.

Paul reminded delegates that they needed to be vigilant. "We need to be prepared for further battles to defend our members' pensions and to defend the principle that all public service workers must have good quality defined benefit pension provision," he said.

"In the NHS, that means workers, young and old, well paid and not so well paid, frontline workers or support staff all having the opportunity to have a pension based on their earnings and not on the vagaries of the market."

The TUC Conference is in Brighton from 8-11 September.

Composite 14 Public service pensions Motion 64 and amendments
Congress condemns the disproportionate and unjustified decision of the treasury chief secretary in January to suspend the process for rectifying the downward breaches of the cost cap in public service pension schemes. Many scheme members are now denied the reductions in contributions and pension benefit improvements that are due to them and are forced to continue overpaying for lesser benefits for an uncertain period, without a timescale and an unclear outcome.

Congress welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in June in favour of the FBU’s case, which found that the Westminster government’s transitional protection arrangements for pensions amount to unlawful discrimination.

The government argued that a potential read-across of the court ruling in favour of the FBU and judges’ cases about age discrimination in the transitional protection for older scheme members in 2014/15 means that other schemes are affected, and that “it is not now possible to assess the value of the current public service pension arrangements with any certainty.” But the government has also acted in a hypocritical manner, by imposing extra employment costs for pensions, as they did not defer the change to the discount rate from April this year, for the same reason.

Congress welcomes the intervention of the General Council, including the general secretary and president by meeting the treasury chief secretary in June, and the steps being taken following that meeting, for scheme specific talks with treasury officials to test assumptions and the scenarios displayed by different contributions, benefits and demography.

Congress calls on the General Council to ensure that the TUC organises joint union campaigning, including building for joint industrial action if necessary to protect defined benefit pension provision in public services and until the valuation suspension is reversed.
Mover: Public and Commercial Services Union
Seconder: Fire Brigades Union
Supporter: Society of Radiographers

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