By Max Clarke
Ministers are to discuss rises in pension contributions for public sector workers today in a bid to shave more than a billion from the government’s pensions budget.
Increases are not expected to affect the lowest paid workers- those on £15,000 or less- but could lead to increases of up to £2,000 a year for highly staff. The proposed rises have been met withfierce opposition from the public sector union, UNISON, who called a strike last month in protest of the changes.
“Let’s not forget that these talks are about real people, hard-working individuals who signed up to, and pay into, a pension scheme that is supposed to cushion them against poverty in old age,” said UNISON chief, Dave Prentis.
“Extra contributions won’t go back into the pension
schemes, but straight to the Treasury to pay off the country’s deficit — effectively a tax on public sector workers to pay for the bankers’ mess. That is totally unjust.”
The government have defended the rises as an equitable means of tying pension contributions to wages in the public sector at a time of austerity as a necessary means of reducing the UK’s unsustainable deficit.
UNISON insists that any changes should be based on evidence and not political ideology. Average pension in local government is £4,000, but for women its just £2,800 (£56 a week) and in health its just £7,500, and £3,000 for women. Members of those schemes pay in between 5.5% and 7.5% of their salaries to save for their retirement. If they did not save, they would end up on means-tested benefits at a cost to taxpayers.
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