Last week, 9 September 2011 an All Members circular, 2011HOC0419MW, was issued informing members of the Westminster government's intention to push through the various attacks on our pension schemes in line with timescales that can only be described as totally unrealistic.
Members were also given details of the intention of HM Treasury to set a cost ceiling for all public sector pension schemes by 1 October 2011. This cost ceiling would be based on a generic model for all schemes to be introduced by 2015 which included career average rather than final salary; new (and currently unknown) accrual rates; normal retirement age of 60 for uniformed services; link to state retirement age for LGPS members; member contributions 3.2% above current weighted level; and reduced commutation factors fixed at 12:1.
The union firmly believes that imposing these cost ceilings will set a 'straight jacket' for any discussions around scheme proposals and undermine any claim that current talks on pensions will be genuine and will consider all issues and all concerns raised. Members were also informed that the introduction of cost ceilings would impact on discussions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland since they would set clear cost limits for the future funding of all our pensions.
Last week the FBU wrote to the Secretary of State and the Chief Secretary of the Treasury demanding that any decision around setting cost ceilings should be delayed and requesting a written response by 13 September 2011.
Letters were also sent to all appropriate Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland informing them of the situation and the implications of the cost ceiling imposition.
To date the issues we have raised have not been adequately addressed. Indeed it has been confirmed that cost ceiling will be set as previously outlined. As a result, the union has now taken the step of registering trade disputes covering all parts of the UK. This was announced at the TUC Congress earlier today. This is the first step required by law before any industrial dispute. The Executive Council is scheduled to meet on 20 September 2011 and will be discussing what further steps may now be necessary.
Although the union has registered trade disputes we remain committed to real negotiations and will be submitting further robust evidence to support the arguments against the pension attacks.
Members will recognise that this action represents a step up in our action and that it is extremely important that you attend local FBU meetings that are called to discuss the Hands Off Our Pensions campaign.