Unions back public sector pension reforms

By by Adrian Darbyshire adrian.darbyshire@iomtoday.co.im Twitter:@iomAdrian in Politics

The threat of strike action among public sector workers has been averted after union members voted - narrowly in some cases - to accept big reforms to their pensions.

Tynwald next week will be asked to approve significant changes to the government’s Unified Pension Scheme, which will see public servants pay more and receive less.

It will mean all future benefits will be reduced by 6 per cent from April this year.

And new members will pay 2.5 per cent more in contributions from April this year while current members will see that 2.5 per cent increase phased in over three years from April next year.

The aim is to put public sector pensions onto a more sustainable footing in the future by providing a ’cost envelope’. There are also plans for cost sharing so that three quarters of any future costs increases are borne by the members.

But this will do nothing to tackle the so-called ’legacy’ funding gap relating to pension payments to public sector workers who have already retired and which is expected to spiral from £44.9m this year to £96.4m in 2034-35.

Unions were balloted on the proposals between January 23 and noon on Monday this week.

Unite members voted in favour by 82.4 per cent, with 17.6 per cent voting against (364 votes to 64, with one spoilt paper).

Members of Prospect, the biggest civil service union, voted in favour of the reforms by 949 votes to 700 with just two spoiled papers.

Its Government Officers’ Association members voted to approve the reforms by 689 to 465, with a turn-out of 70 per cent.

Angela Moffatt, Prospect negotiating officer, had previously warned that a vote to reject the reforms could lead to a ballot for industrial action.

But in some groups the ’yes’ result was by the slimmest of margins.

Prospect’s prison officers members voted in favour by 27 votes to 26, with a turn-out of 60 per cent. There was one spoilt paper.

And its Whitley Council manual workers voted in favour of the reforms by 148 votes to 146, with a 71 per cent turn-out.

Social care staff on National Joint Council terms and conditions narrowly voted yes by 28 votes to 26 on a turn-out of 78 per cent and health workers on Manx pay terms and conditions voted by 29 to 27, with a similarly large turn-out of 75 per cent.

In a message to its members, Prospect said: ’As you can see, in some employment groups, the proposals have been accepted by the narrowest of margins on a high turn-out overall.

’We will reflect this in our lobbying actions which will take place from now until the Tynwald debate.’

Civil servants who paid contributions of just 1.5 per cent five years ago have seen phased increases since 2012 that will take the rate to 7.75 per cent in 2018. A further 2.5 per cent on top will see them pay 10.25 per cent by 2021. Some grades will pay more still - 10.25 per cent - while firefighters will pay 13.5 per cent.

For new members, the increase in contributions will take the rate they pay to 7.5 per cent - lower than active members as they have not accrued benefits under the old system.

The 2.5 per cent increase in contributions will not apply to Tynwald members who have been already paying 5 per cent more towards their pensions from October last year.

In a briefing to Tynwald members, the Public Sector Pensions Authority said the changes were simple to implement and would deliver the required savings immediately, while not leading to any mass exodus of members from the scheme.

The public sector pension liability has risen from £2.1bn in 2013 to £3bn.

The PSPA and Treasury are still considering options to tackle the legacy funding gap. Proposals are expected to go to Tynwald in October and will follow an actuarial review of all the public sector pensions schemes.

Discussions are continuing on changes to pensions for the police, teachers and judges.

Policy and Reform Minister Chris Thomas, who is vice chairman of the PSPA, said he was pleased that the unions had engaged with the reform process and so much progress had been made.

But he added: ’The most important vote is the one in Tynwald.’

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Chris Thomas · 184 days ago · Report

Manx Pleb Tynwald members pensions were changed on Election Day, earlier than this change. No member contributes less than 10% now and benefits have been reduced by 20%. Thus this new scheme will affect all GUS members except Tynwald members. Fell I expect new 5 year Financial Strategy/Plan in next week's budget which will begin to address the issues you raise. Conch You are right - public policy needs to address demographic and migration trends.

Conch · 186 days ago · Report

They need to balance the population.....and the young people and workers are leaving...... too many retirees... all down to Government policy down the years

Fell · 186 days ago · Report

The Shimmin Report identified that an extra £70 million pa would need to be taken out of from general revenue to pay for PS Pensions. Eddie Teare said this would be funded from "growth" but conveniently excluded any increased spending on health or education balance the books. How does this administration plan to deal with this massive annual payment out of taxpayer funds?

Conch · 186 days ago · Report

It's a terrible attitude to say 'not my/your problem' when talking about privatising the NHS just because there aren't fit people to run it. Many things are not 'our problem' so to speak but in the interests of altruism, human decency and unselfishness we should all make it our problem. Anything apart from this is just weak and throwing the towel in @konig Im alright jack. what goes around comes around it could be your daughter, son, mother or signifigant other that needs the nhs one day

Conch · 186 days ago · Report

It's a terrible attitude to say 'not my/your problem' when talking about privatising the NHS just because there aren't fit people to run it. Many things are not 'our problem' so to speak but in the interests of altruism, human decency and unselfishness we should all make it our problem. Anything apart from this is just weak and throwing the towel in @konig Im alright jack. what goes around comes around it could be your daughter, son, mother or signifigant other that needs the nhs one day

Manx born (formerl CV) · 186 days ago · Report

konig, you post about selling the hospital or power station to pay for your pension liability is the writing of a mad man.....or a troll. Sir Nigel, do you work for the civil service? Where do you get facts from? Finally, Mrs Moffatt you should consider your position. Your brand of trade unionism disappeared years ago.

Grumpy Old Man · 187 days ago · Report

Dear Mr Editor...can you please do something about people that clutter up these comment pages with personal tit-for-tat drivel. Surely there are other places to have such debates and arguments, and this is a comment section, not a debate forum?

Freethinker · 187 days ago · Report

Please disregard Konig as I am sure he doesn't speak for the vast majority of Public Servants as he comes across as an idiot, I for one have zero in common with this buffoon.

Freethinker · 187 days ago · Report

Yes, there are unscrupulous people who will turn up, do nothing or go off on the sick for no reason other than to skive etc etc and collect their money on the 25th but these are the minority, and yes, there is a lot that turn up who get the job done and generally can't think beyond what is expected of them but that's a managerial problem, purely down to bad management...there is no such thing as a bad soldier only a bad General!

Freethinker · 187 days ago · Report

There are a great deal of very conscientious Public Servants who go over and beyond their remit, who have extremely high standards and are very proud to serve the Public and are equally aggravated to say the least when public money is misspent and know full well that we are getting paid by people we know, our friends and family and possibly are guardians of that money.

Freethinker · 187 days ago · Report

Some of you say that the pension is undeserved, this is all down to previous people negotiating, as you can see from this headline, most of us are ok with having to pay more and have a reduction in benefits also knowing full well that there are more cuts to come as well as increasing contributions.

konig · 187 days ago · Report

Personal attacks again, Back again? You'll be disappearing soon I suspect Daesin, Shipwracked, Post Truth Officer, Neil D....

konig · 187 days ago · Report

@Back again, in a nutshell yes! If you wanted to save the NHS you should have elected more competent politicians! Not my/our problem.

Jolife · 187 days ago · Report

Konig....really ! People are laughing at you.

konig · 187 days ago · Report

Jolife, regardless if there is money or not, the pensions are safe. The government has assets to sell, like hospitals, power stations and buses, that will have to be sold to pay for the pensions.

Jolife · 187 days ago · Report

Konig...whoever you are...please stop the moaning. If civil servants or ex civil servants wish to bankrupt the Island...there will be no money to pay your salaries or pensions, so grow up and bite your lip. I wish we could still vote on comments.....

RichEader · 187 days ago · Report

Sorry to burst your bubble, konig, but the OECD is not a court of law or, for that matter, a sovereign body capable of legislating. As to the "international common law" --- which?

ET · 187 days ago · Report

OECD is not a constituted legal body in any way, shape or form. It's a membership club without authority based on cooperative advice. It's common law not to spit on the grass but people do. The agreement is a step forward but not a solution. Miss Moffats threats on the radio constitute a hurdle to a solution which is worrying for everyone including Miss Moffat.

konig · 187 days ago · Report

It's recognised under international common law and the OECD have made clear rulings on it.

RichEader · 187 days ago · Report

Which international law is that konig? You've said that in the past, but have yet to provide the actual case or statutory law information; probably because there isn't any.

konig · 187 days ago · Report

This certainly isn't over. International law protects our rights and the Isle of Man Government must sell off all assets before cutting our pensions.

Manx Pleb · 187 days ago · Report

Let's see how our esteemed Tynwald and LegCo members vote in respect of the implications of these cuts on their own pensions. I'm sure there'll be some room for manouvre left.

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