Pensions and public sector dominate in TUC debates

Pensions,
equal pay and public sector issues dominated the 136th Trades Union Congress,
held last week in Brighton.

Alan
Johnson, the new secretary of state for work and pensions and a former trade
union leader, announced that employees were to be given more power to control 
company
pensions schemes.

He
told the TUC that the Government would create powers to ensure half of pension
scheme trustees were nominated by members of that scheme. At present the level
is a third.

After
months of speculation, Johnson admitted that ministers had no immediate plans
to raise the state pension
age.

TUC
general secretary Brendan Barber welcomed the Government’s pension
announcement and claimed it as "another victory for people at work".
The TUC called for compulsory contributions from employers and for the link
between the state pension and average earnings to be
restored.

Meanwhile,
Mark Serwotka, general
secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, won a standing
ovation when he described government plans to cut 104,000 Civil Service jobs as
"disgraceful butchery".

Serwotka warned the Government
that it was leaving itself with too few staff to carry out services and
"doing a British Airways". The TUC voted to carry out co-ordinated
campaigns and linking up on industrial action. The PCS will ballot for a
national strike on 5 November.

Prospect,
the union representing professional workers damned the Government for "dumbing down" the Civil
Service and said there was a steady haemorrhaging of professional talent in the
service, particularly in scientific and technical expertise.

The
NHS also came under scrutiny, with TUC delegates asked to condemn the
introduction of performance related pay (PRP).

Public
sector pay came under fire, when Heather Wakefield, national secretary for
local government at Unison, revealed that there were 300,000 part-time local
government employees earning less than £6 an hour.

"Twenty
per cent of the workforce is living on poverty wages," she told a fringe
event on skills pathways, held by the Employers Organisation.

By Penny Wilson

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