More than twenty trade unions and their supporters are preparing for a day of mass action over public sector pensions. As many as 3 million workers could go on strike on November 30th in what promises be the biggest trade union mobilisation in a generation.
Members of 16 unions –AEP, Aspect, ATL, FDA, CPS, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT,NUT, PCS, Prospect, SCP, UCATT, UCU, UNISON and UNITE – have already voted “Yes” to strike action.
A further 6 unions – BAOT, CSP, EIS, MiP, SoR, and UCAC – have announced plans to ballot their members.
The POA, whose members are denied the right to take strike action, says it will take action anyway
Ballot results have been coming in with massive “yes” votes – Unison 82% for strike action, GMB 83.7%, Head Teachers Union NAHT 75.8%, Unite 75%, UCATT 83%, NASUWT 82% on a 40%+ turnout.
The government wants to impose career average pensions on public sector workers to replace their final salary schemes. This would cut many workers’ pensions significantly—and the average public sector pension is already less than £5,000 a year.
It has now also proposed increasing the rate at which workers build up their pensions benefit—known as the accrual rate. But this doesn’t mean a better deal for workers. Danny Alexander has told MPs that the ‘offer’ includes accrual rates of 1/60 – exactly the same rate as already applies in the existing scheme for new entrants – so it’s no real improvement.
For older people who are presently on a worse accrual rate of 1/80 but who also get a lump-sum on retirement as well, the 1/60 ‘offer’ may turn out to be a worsening of their pension, not an improvement at all. Also, as the TUC points out, the government has overestimated career average earnings. That means they are also overestimating eventual pension payouts.