Osborne’s attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity

Dave Prentis, the General Secretary of UNISON, on the government’s attacks on public sector pensions - and the damage the savage cuts will bring.

Dave Prentis is the General Secretary of UNISON, Britain’s biggest public sector trade union with more than 1.3 million members

UNISON’s campaign against the government’s plans for public sector workers got an unexpected boost this weekend, when it was revealed health secretary Andrew Lansley had written a five page letter to George Osborne’s Treasury, warning about the dangers of his own government’s proposals.

Even Tory ministers are waking up to how unjust, unreasonable and unworkable their plans are – plans to make public sector workers pay more, work longer and get less when they retire. Mr Lansley helpfully echoed UNISON’s concerns by pointing out the proposals were “inappropriate” and “unrealistic”, and would hit women particularly hard.

From the word go, UNISON has been warning people will leave the schemes if they are forced to pay more in contributions – another Mr that Lansley gave his backing to. Health workers and local government staff already pay between five and eight percent of their salary into their pension. Stuck on a pay freeze and with inflation high, it would be impossible for many to afford more.

The best deal for the taxpayer are decent schemes that allow workers to put some of their wages aside, together with a contribution from their employers – giving them enough money to stay out of poverty in their retirement. The alternative if workers opt out is a whopping means tested benefit for the taxpayer – placing a huge burden on the public purse.

And the taxpayer is already set to pay a heavy price to support those who haven’t saved, or have been locked out of saving for their retirement. Today, UNISON warns of a huge potential benefits bill to support up to 15 million private sector workers who are not in a workplace pension to which their employer contributes. This could mean they are forced to rely on benefit top ups paid for by the taxpayer when they retire – an average bill to the taxpayer of £15,000.

Thanks to our campaigning the facts are starting to cut through the fog of misinformation that has clouded much of the public sector pensions debate. The evidence shows the schemes are affordable and sustainable for the long term – a fact proved decisively by independent experts the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

Thanks to a thorough renegotiation in 2008, £2 billion more comes in than goes out of the health scheme each year. This money goes directly to the Treasury coffers – not to pensions, so any contribution rise or cost saving plan is simply a money raising exercise to plug the deficit. And if the cost of the health workers scheme goes up, it will have to be picked up by health workers themselves – the employers’ contribution is already capped.

The local government scheme is in good shape too – it is a funded scheme that is cash rich, and could afford to pay all its liabilities for the next 20 years without one single penny more in contributions. It invests hugely in the economy – and has investments that are worth a whopping 12% of UK GDP – something its critics seem to conveniently forget.

People are waking up to the reality that public sector pensions are far from gold plated. The average pension in local government is around £4,000, for women £2,800 – or £56 a week. In the NHS the average is £7,500 – higher because of doctors and consultants pensions, and for women again about £3,000 – Mr Lansley is right to warn that women will be hit hardest, and many of them are relatively low paid.

Our campaign to get the facts across will keep running throughout the summer as the talks continue.

We are now in scheme-specific negotiations, and whilst we are hoping for the best, we are planning for the worst. If the talks fail, or the ‘offer’ that finally emerges is inadequate, we will ballot 1.2 million of our 1.4 million members for what will be sustained industrial action – a huge undertaking. We know that one day of action will not be enough – a march or a rally won’t cut it – our action will have to be for a longer period of time to get the government to change its damaging course.

Our position in fighting for these pensions is clear – the attacks are based on ideology, not necessity – let’s hope the government falls for the facts, not the fiction, and adds its weight to the campaign for decent pensions for all workers – whether they are in the public or the private sector.

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39 Responses to “Osborne’s attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity”

  1. Andrew Freeman

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes @UNISONtweets Gen Sec Dave Prentis

  2. William Dewhurst

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes @UNISONtweets Gen Sec Dave Prentis

  3. Michael

    Osborne’s attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity l Dave Prentis l Left Foot Forward – http://tinyurl.com/4x4eccb

  4. Chris Hanrahan

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://t.co/cALBhZa writes @UNISONtweets Gen Sec Dave Prentis

  5. Caer

    RT @leftfootfwd Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://t.co/oVQA6vR writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis.

  6. Bern O'Donoghue

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://t.co/Vmzid4O writes @UNISONtweets Gen Sec Dave Prentis

  7. Watching You

    Osborne’s attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity l Dave Prentis l Left Foot Forward – http://tinyurl.com/4x4eccb

  8. Keith Hudson

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity |… http://lnkd.in/jHUqrq

  9. Natalie Davids

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: Thanks to our campaigning the facts are star… http://bit.ly/r6JSVw

  10. Jill Hayward

    Osborne’s attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity l Dave Prentis l Left Foot Forward – http://tinyurl.com/4x4eccb

  11. chris star

    Osborne’s attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity
    http://j.mp/oaDv5D

  12. Pink Humanist

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://t.co/Vmzid4O writes @UNISONtweets Gen Sec Dave Prentis

  13. Jose Aguiar

    RT @leftfootfwd: Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity http://t.co/fgSQlvA

  14. Kevin Richards

    RT @leftfootfwd: Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity http://t.co/sgKoq38

  15. Mr. Sensible

    Fully agree Dave; the government has to this point made a mess of nigociations on this issue. Lets see if Lansley forces a listening exercise on it…
    🙂

  16. Ben Folley

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity http://t.co/HGIh4re via @leftfootfwd @unisontweets

  17. Joy Johnson

    RT @benfolley: Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity http://t.co/HGIh4re via @leftfootfwd @unisontweets

  18. UNISON - the union

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis via @leftfootfwd

  19. UNISON - the union

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity, writes Dave Prentis. http://fb.me/O1cQrJkq

  20. UNISONCommVolSector

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis via @leftfootfwd

  21. Aaron Chandra

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity, writes Dave Prentis. http://fb.me/O1cQrJkq

  22. Matt Jeffs

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis via @leftfootfwd

  23. michelle England

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis via @leftfootfwd

  24. The Edditer

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity, writes Dave Prentis. http://fb.me/O1cQrJkq

  25. Phillip Tilley

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis via @leftfootfwd

  26. NextGenerationLabour

    Dave Prentis: "Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity" http://bit.ly/puxc8q via @leftfootfwd @unisontweets

  27. Lenny Samms

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity, writes Dave Prentis. http://fb.me/O1cQrJkq

  28. Neil Mc

    Just about everything the Tories do is based on a particularly nasty form of ideology, which the vast majority of the electorate rejected but which a grossly unfair 19th century electoral system allows them to get away with.

  29. Sophie Madden

    RT @leftfootfwd: Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity http://t.co/5DNUStl

  30. ste roper

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis via @leftfootfwd

  31. Coventry Unison

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity, writes Dave Prentis. http://fb.me/O1cQrJkq

  32. Mentor&Sons

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity http://t.co/PBKMsBv #work #graduate #online #news #jobs

  33. Graduate Jobs UK

    RT @mentorandsons Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity http://t.co/PBKMsBv #work #graduate #online #news #jobs

  34. Staffordshire UNISON

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://bit.ly/q5GwdH writes Gen Sec Dave Prentis via @leftfootfwd

  35. NoBigGovDuh

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity: http://t.co/Vmzid4O writes @UNISONtweets Gen Sec Dave Prentis

  36. simon richards

    I hope we are serious about sustained industrial action to fight this unjustified attack on public servants. Targeted action by a small number of colleagues in a few key services, who can be compensated from the Fighting Fund, will quickly paralyse councils and make this government sit up and take notice.

  37. Tweeted Times Top

    Osborne's attacks on pensions are bas…: http://goo.gl/umU03 most discussed on @danhurlbut/politics (http://goo.gl/HrPWt)

  38. Jay Thompson

    Osborne's attack on pensions are based on ideology, not necessity, writes Dave Prentis. http://fb.me/O1cQrJkq

  39. Andy

    One change that could be made to the LGPS which would NOT affect any currently defined benefit but could save millions and millions is… merge ALL the LGPS funds together, so instead of having around 100 independant LGPS funds just have 4 – one for each country. We could get rid of the private actuaries that are employed to administer all those individual funds and employ directly employed people to run our fund, and this would have a dramatic effect on the running costs involved in running the LGPS. Has that been mentioned in negotiations at all? If not it should be introduced ASAP. Anything to protect our scheme.

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