The UK’s largest public sector unions will open up a legal front tomorrow in their continuing row with the Government over pensions reform.
Six unions – Unison, Unite, Public and Commercial Services Union, the Fire Brigades Union, the Prison Officers Association and teachers’ union NASUWT – are taking High Court action to challenge the way in which increases to pensions are worked out, claiming it is “unfair” to millions.
The unions take issue with the use of the consumer price index (CPI) as opposed to the retail price index (RPI), which is around 1.2% higher on average, for the annual increase in public sector pensions, saying that the loss to existing public sector pensioners will be around 15% and that the move was done without any consultation or negotiation.
If they are successful, it would open the door to around four million private sector workers also affected by the change to challenge their pension providers.
The unions’ case is that the move was not permitted under social security legislation, and that it reneged on assurances given by successive governments that RPI would apply. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis accused the coalition of running “roughshod over pensioners”.
“The way that a country treats its citizens when they retire is a mark of a decent and fair society. The Government has stepped over that mark – the switch is nothing but a cynical, multi-million pound raid on pensioners to pay down a deficit they did nothing to cause. This flawed measure of inflation does not even include housing costs – a major expenditure for many retired people.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey added: “Our legal challenge against the coalition Government is hugely significant for workers in both the public and private sectors.
“Public sector workers face an opportunistic attack on their pensions by this Government, but many workers in the private sector have also been affected.
“Vested interests are trying to create a wedge between public and private sector workers, when in reality they have common cause on this. We know that some private sector employers are already attempting to move to the lower inflation index citing the Government’s example. In reality, this Government wants us all to work for longer and for less.”
All unions have already balloted for industrial action, are balloting, or will be supporting the day of action over pensions on 30 November 2011.