Public sector pensions: “we didn’t think they would make the decision behind closed doors.”

The news that the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a blanket increase of 3.2 per cent in public-sector pension contributions at a meeting last month, but failed to mention the fact, has led to the Unite union regional secretary, Jimmy Kelly, accusing the NI Executive and Assembly of acting “in a cowardly fashion”.  From today’s Irish News

Jimmy Kelly, Irish regional secretary, hit out at what he described as “the underhand decision” not to publicise news of the increase which only came to light following revelations made by the BBC.

“The assembly has hidden the fact they buckled under Lib-Dem finance minister Danny Alexander’s threats,” Mr Kelly said.

“The assembly ministers have sat on this information and kept it secret from the public domain for more than a month.

“The assembly has acted in a cowardly fashion and as such the information was kept secret from the public.  This glaring omission was done so that politicians did not have to stand the full public scrutiny and defend their actions.”

Having kept quiet at the time, the political parties are now displaying various degrees of openness and transparency.  From a Belfast Telegraph report

It is understood the SDLP’s Alex Attwood was the only minister to object to the rise during an Executive meeting last month.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said the Executive had no option but to bring in the increase.

“We cannot stop them doing it,” he said.

“If we decide not to put the pension contributions up where are we going to find the £140m which will be reduced from our block grant from Westminster?”

—–

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Attwood said although he accepted the decision, he did not agree with the move to increase pension contributions across the board.

“Once the Executive makes the decision I accept that — I did not agree,” he said. “I did outline an approach to both fully-funded and non-funded schemes but the Executive decided, and I am bound by that decision.”

A separate Irish News report has the responses from the other parties.

A Sinn Féin representative refused to say whether all of its ministers had agreed to the hike.

However, the party’s economic spokesman Conor Murphy said it had not “agreed to demands that all public-sector workers contribute an extra 3.2 per cent to their pension fund”.

“Lower paid workers shoud be protected from this £140million levy imposed on the executive by the Tories through a graduated approach and that this should be worked out in consultation with the trade unions,” Mr Murphy said.

A DUP spokesman said the party “does not comment on the internal workings of the executive,” he said.

“It was a paper that was brought by the finance minister and obviously we are happy that it has been agreed by the executive,” he said.

The UUP’s sole minister, Danny Kennedy was, apparently, in Nantes on ministerial business at the time of the decision.

“Nonetheless, the Ulster Unionist Party supports the principle that parity should be maintained with the rest of the United Kingdom, “[a spokeman] said.

“We fully appreciate that we are living in tough economic times and it is in no-one’s interests especially those who work in the public sector to break parity, and to do so will only lead to problems further down the line.”

A spokesman for the Alliance Party said: “David Ford and Stephen Farry, our two ministers, voted for the increase in pension contributions at the executive meeting.

“They did so with regret but had no alternative given the threat to the block grant.”

Well, there was an alternative, as the UK Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said of the Scottish Government.

Mr Alexander said: “John Swinney and Alex Salmond are absolutely free to do something on public sector pensions but they will have to pay the price for doing that in terms of their own budget.

“That’s a choice they are free to make.”

And from the first Irish News report quoted above

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said the lack of communication from the executive to unions was “not a good way to do business”.

“We naturally thought sombody would talk to the unions and the work force,” she said.

“We didn’t anticipate that our executive would stand up for themselves in the same way Scotland did.

“But we didn’t think they would make the decision behind closed doors.”

In Scotland the row broke during First Minister’s questions on 15 September.  And, after failing to get the requested delay, the Scottish Government have also agreed the increase.  Unison there are balloting members for strike action.

The willingness to go public in Scotland is, possibly, connected to the fact that the Scottish Government does have official opposition in the Scottish Parliament…

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  • 241934 john brennan

    It would seem the SF/DUP duopoly share the perks of office between themselves, do secret deals between themselves, don’t do inclusive government, don’t do a shared society and don’t consult the public or public bodies, e.g. trade unions etc.

    In fact, leaving aside the now dormant constitutional issue, this particular duopoly are so entangled with each other as to be one unit – together they should adopt the name, ‘Ourselves Alone Party’

  • BluesJazz

    This levy is a considerable hit on public sector workers’ income. A huge proportion of the NI (voting) population.

    It will have huge knock on consequences.

    Did I miss the Assembly debate on this?

  • Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said the Executive had no option but to bring in the increase.

    “We cannot stop them doing it,” he said.

    “If we decide not to put the pension contributions up where are we going to find the £140m which will be reduced from our block grant from Westminster?”

    What a shower of gutless wonders they are. Where is the Executive leadership that provides for the people their needs and feeds, rather than doing the bidding of remote masters in charge of a failed government program with no creative plan for the future which puts wealth to work for the nation?

    The emperors in the Stormont mad house are naked and not up to the job of leadership.

  • sherdy

    Since the Tories came to power they seem to have been taking pleasure in reducing their financial commitment to us. Our more impoverished condition and the possible risks to our peace process seem to mean nothing to this millionaires’ cabinet.
    They wouldn’t have an ulterior motive like trying to annoy us so much we would want out of the UK, would they?

  • BluesJazz

    sherdy
    The pathetic Stormont assembly had the chance to reject this, but chose simply to act as a conduit for the Real Government (RG) in Westminster.
    No cries of ‘Look, devolution works!’ here, which they do when a cycle path is opened in Bushmills.
    London Rules OK!

    I wonder if Mr McGuinness will be promoting this triumph of British regional administration in the Republic’s presidential election. Because the glaring hypocrisy and irony is blinding.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Executive stalls increases in water charges, student fees and many other – the great and the good of the blogiverse bang on about avoiding responsibility, living beyond means, not facing fiscal reality etc etc
    Executive agrees to pension contribution hike, the same people are on about standing up to London, protecting the working man etc etc
    I think I know where the hypocrisy is coming from

  • BluesJazz

    As a public sector worker, I’m in a probable minority of supporting the levy. But that’s not the issue. There was no debate. There was in Scotland, who rejected it. But here, they tried to hide the issue and hope the Real Government (RG) took the blame.
    David Ford, under DUP/SF patronage and his Lib Dem masters on the mainland voted yes ‘with regret’. Laughable.

    The DUP went in to ‘silent’ mode, ‘nothing we could do’- plenty actually.

    The UUP hid and SF waffled incoherently hoping, no doubt, the BBC and others will not raise the issue and upset the applecart.

    Expect to hear little more on this issue.

  • sherdy

    BJ – Apposite reference to the applecart: public sector workers have just been shafted!

  • Los Lobos

    Why is anyone surprised at the outworkings of the Execuitive? This is the Government we in NI voted for, so this is what we get. If the public sector wishes to point the finger of blame somewhere they should point it at themselves for cosying up with the Establishment for so long.

  • Cynic2

    “This levy is a considerable hit on public sector workers’ income.”

    No its not. It is 3% less tax

  • BluesJazz

    Los lobos, agreed.
    But let’s be clear. This pension levy on workers is a Stormont one.
    The SF/DUP administration (aided by their Alliance lapdog), voted to cut public sector wages in NI by 3.2% on top of a 3 year pay freeze. There was no assembly debate.

    And little or no media coverage.

    Because to do so might show up the total irrelevance of the assembly other than carrying out orders from London.

    It’s direct rule with a few Skoda baubles for the reservation chiefs. The BBC (especially) indulges this facade. I suppose, given their own cuts, they’re unlikely to grow a set in future.

  • Cynic2

    ” A huge proportion of the NI (voting) population.” …… Doh. That’s part of the problem

  • Cynic2

    “public sector workers have just been shafted!”

    …… asked to pay a fair share

  • aquifer

    The value of priviate sector pensions has tanked with falls in share prices.

    3.5% is a bargain

  • dennis the menace

    of course, those in the public sector can opt out and seek a better deal in the real world

  • Bungditin

    BJ
    “As a public sector worker, I’m in a probable minority of supporting the levy”

    You are of course aware that this levy is only part of an assembly package which will also incorporate a rise in the age of retirement (in line with an rising state pensionable age) and a switch from final salary to career average pension.

    By drip feeding its plans for a 3.2% increase in public sector pension contributions whilst neglecting to mention these other measures, suggests an even greater degree of cowardise, deceipt and contempt on the part of SF/DUP

    But sure its all the fault of Tory cuts!

  • Barnshee

    Its a 3.2% increase in PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS

    ie if your pension contribution was £200 per month it is now (allowing for tax at 20%) £205.12 or about 23p extra a day

    If you go on strike and lose a days pay (say £64 net of Tax ) that will be the equivalent of paying the extra for approximately 283 days

    Get a grip

  • BluesJazz

    Bungditin

    Yep, I’m aware. But the media are not.

    They’re still spinning the SF/DUP line that big bad London are not giving us enough porridge. We get well (at least 25% more) money than elsewhere in the UK -without taking in to account the much higher levels of DLA and IB here.

    SF want their subsidised cake and lots more, while blaming the subsidiser. the DUP are only too happy to oblige.

    The point I want to raise is that this (SF/DUP) cut will have a wider impact on the local economy. Construction and retail will tank even further.

    Who to blame? Hardly matters

    Recovery plan? Stormont? Not a frigging mission.

  • BoBo

    wish the unions would step into the real world. Have they any concept that the Executive can only spend the money they have – so “stop the cuts” aligned with a cry to do something (not increase pension contributions) that the UK Gov will charge us for (ie take money off us!) is simply bizarre. Oh, but forgot, we should just wish all the problems away.

  • Life is hard, then you die.

    Would public service workers prefer to pay this increased pension contribution or be laid off?

    You pays your money and you takes your choice – The Bird.

  • Nunoftheabove

    joeCanuck

    Took the words right off my fingers – if the argument had been counterposed that way and the unions had been consulted they’d have spun the outcome as a victory – a minor irritation on pension but hey, jobs protected.

    Nonethless for an isue which impacts tens of thousands within NI the ease with which these decisions can be made with apparently no substantial public debate of any description is as troubling as it is unsurprising.

  • Old Mortality

    If the public sector trade unions have any sense, they’ll be tacitly relieved by this decision. Not only does it avoid painful cuts elsewhere, it also preserves the principle of parity with public sector pay in the UK generally.
    God forbid that the executive might come to the economically rational conclusion that public sector pay in NI needs to be more closely aligned with private sector pay

  • Comrade Stalin

    This levy is a considerable hit on public sector workers’ income.

    3%. On a 20K salary that’s £600 a year before tax. Less than a tenner a week after tax. What does a tenner buy you ?

    If someone told me I could have a guaranteed, unbreakable pension in exchange for a 3% cut out of my salary I’d sign up there and then. Public sector workers are voluntarily paying into a gold-plated guaranteed pension. A pension like that cannot be bought privately. Meanwhile, the rest of us have to pay the taxes that fund those pensions – and we have to pay significant sums in order to have what amounts to an unguaranteed chance that we’ll have a pension of our own when we retire.

    For the people finding that a tenner puts them on the poverty line, there is a simple solution. Stop paying into the pension scheme.

    The pathetic Stormont assembly had the chance to reject this,

    Please explain how exactly ?

    but chose simply to act as a conduit for the Real Government (RG) in Westminster.

    Stormont does not raise taxes or apportion tax revenue around the UK. Who is surprised by this ?

    There was no debate.

    Exactly what is there to debate ?

    There was in Scotland, who rejected it.

    Wrong. Scotland tried to reject it, and then were compelled to accept it.

    But here, they tried to hide the issue and hope the Real Government (RG) took the blame.

    Given that Westminster are the people cutting the budget isn’t that where the blame lies ?

    David Ford, under DUP/SF patronage and his Lib Dem masters on the mainland voted yes ‘with regret’. Laughable.

    What was the alternative ?

    Have you any evidence to support this libellous notion that Ford takes orders from the Liberal Democrats ?

    The DUP went in to ‘silent’ mode, ‘nothing we could do’- plenty actually.

    Like what ?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Comrade Stalin

    You’re quite right on the hit to income; civil servants need to catch themselves on when it comes to pension provision, they’ve been in la-la land for countless years now and should consider some measure of contribution a relatively small and entirely fair price to pay for a fabulous benefit.

  • BluesJazz

    CS
    A tenner a week, on top of a 3 year pay freeze, with inflation running at 5% is not to be laughed off. Maybe you don’t think of it as much, tried to fill a car with petrol recently?
    Stormont *could* have rejected it and taken the hit off the block grant. They chose not to.
    I accept the levy, but others do not. You seem to contadict yourself by saying it’s a great thing but ‘blaming’ the UK coalition government. Shouldn’t you be congratulating the Tories on what you think is a fantastic policy? Teachers and Nurses didn’t bankrupt the country, those bankers who did face no sanction.
    There should have been a public debate on this, not a shabby closed door meeting where at least Alex Attwood had the guts to express his opinion.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nunoftheabove,

    What really pisses me off is the arrogance of the notion that the local administration are supposed to pay for these special gold plated pensions by cutting other things.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Bluesjazz

    We’re in agreement about the absence of sufficient public debate and accountability however your argument is cheapened by the “Teachers and Nurses didn’t bankrupt the country, those bankers who did face no sanction”. The unions depending on that line as a reason not to introduce/consider cuts or rationalisation of any description haven’t the intelligence to feel some shame for its inadequacy given their ostensible passion for the public good.

  • Comrade Stalin

    A tenner a week, on top of a 3 year pay freeze, with inflation running at 5% is not to be laughed off.

    What makes you think that only public sector civil servants are suffering ? Do you reckon the private sector are dishing out big pay raises ?

    Maybe you don’t think of it as much, tried to fill a car with petrol recently?

    Indeed, petrol costs are also climbing for those of us who are not civil servants.

    Stormont *could* have rejected it and taken the hit off the block grant.

    Yeah, so basically the rest of us are supposed to take a hit in public services and investment so that you can get your fancy pension. I mean, the brass neck of it.

    I accept the levy, but others do not.

    It’s just as well, since you don’t have any say in the matter, just like the rest of us when our employers make a decision on such matters.

    You seem to contadict yourself by saying it’s a great thing but ‘blaming’ the UK coalition government.

    I don’t know what you mean by this sentence, but I think I am describing reality. Which is that if the government chooses to cut the block grant, there’s very little we can really do about it.

    Shouldn’t you be congratulating the Tories on what you think is a fantastic policy?

    No, because I don’t agree with this idea of cutting the UK back to health, I am quite sure it will prolong the recession. I am not defending the cuts.

    Teachers and Nurses didn’t bankrupt the country, those bankers who did face no sanction.

    I don’t see why that means that I have to pay out of my taxes for you to have a fancy pension that I can’t have myself.

    Looking at annuity rates at the moment (which those of us who do not benefit from a gold plated pension will have to purchase when we retire) I’m not filled with motivation to defend anyone in financial services either. They seem to be untouchable in this country.

    There should have been a public debate on this, not a shabby closed door meeting where at least Alex Attwood had the guts to express his opinion.

    There is an argument that the government could have done a better job about publicizing this, but I don’t see how the decisions could have been any different. Fundamentally, you are arguing that front line services should be cut so that you can afford a nice pension. Sorry but it just doesn’t work like that. I might have been more sympathetic if people had stood up to stop the filleting of private sector pensions a decade or so ago. The people who are striking now didn’t lift so much as a finger to stop it.

  • BluesJazz

    nun
    ok, I don’t agree with the unions going on strike over this, that will be an embarrassing failure.
    But MP’s and MLA’s pensions are not included in this levy, how do you feel about that?

  • BluesJazz

    Just to add, this idea of a ‘gold plated’ pension is rubbish. We’re talking an average of less than 7 grand a year for a lifetime in employment. Compare to Fred the Shred at RBS and other private schemes.
    These pensions were introduced because of the much lower pay in public sector jobs like nursing. And many of us are prepared to accept a hit, even if the crisis was not of our making.
    But things like foreign holidays and Sky are now going to be luxuries for the average teacher/police/nurse. Of course no-one will starve, but we would like to think our sacrifice is at least recognised. We weren’t living the life of Reilly like Builders during the boom. They made their money-and left us to pick up the bill.
    Rant over.

  • Tintin010

    Comrade Stalin,

    “Public sector workers are voluntarily paying into a gold-plated guaranteed pension”

    I believe Hutton emphatically says no, warning against changes to state pensions becoming a race to the bottom. Average local government pensions are £4,000 for men, £2,800 for women.

    (Guardian, 10/10/2011)

    Private sector workers receive an average pension of circa 1000 pounds. Because private sector workers don’t receive a proper pension, therefore, neither should public sector workers shouldn’t be the basis for an argument that determines the living standard of what will be the future generations of the elderly.

    “Meanwhile, the rest of us have to pay the taxes that fund those pensions”

    I’m pretty certain public sector workers pay taxes, and, the government as do private employers contribute to pension schemes.

    The fact that our privileges are now being dictated by greedy private companies supported by non-unionized workers in the private sector is sad.

  • Nunoftheabove

    luesJazz

    Pretty much the way I feel about MLAs and MP terms and conditions generally.

    Re. the generations-old ‘poor us’/entitlement bit, nobody was/is conscripted into the civil service and the penis envy of some aspects of private sector Ts & Cs is frankly not much more than that; if it’s that much better in the private sector then just go there and give it up with the moaning. The Goodwin reference is just juvenile I’m afraid.

  • BluesJazz

    nun
    Tuition fees
    The devolved administrations have decided that middle class students should pay less (much less) than the English- who subsidise us.
    To pay for this, my Mum’s hip replacement is put back 2 years.
    Why are devolved administrations so scared of the mother parliament on pensions reform rather than other areas?
    The other areas have been debated, this one has not.

    Let’s be clear (for the next election). DUP/SF/Alliance decied to cut Nurses and Teachers pay in NI, not the Conservatives. It was a devolved decision. Even if Attwood had the balls to disagree, the rest took the easy way out.

  • Cynic2

    “DUP/SF/Alliance decied to cut Nurses and Teachers pay”

    No they decided to push up the pensions of all civil servants. Now just what would you cut to balance the books?

  • Cynic2

    “These pensions were introduced because of the much lower pay in public sector jobs like nursing. ”

    In NI pay in public sector is generally higher than comparable jobs in Private Sector

  • BluesJazz

    Now just what would you cut to balance the books?

    The Ulster Scots agency, and its offspring, same with Irish language, the older persons commission, the childrens play commission, the north/south/east/west bodies, separate so called (‘faith’)schools, Invest NI, the tourist board, DEL, maternity hospitals with less than 50 births a year, libraries that no longer serve any purpose, the ‘environment agency’ …..I could go on.

  • BluesJazz

    Oh, implement the Bain report, and bring DLA and IB benefits back to mainland UK levels. That saves at least £200 million. probably more. I could go on.

  • BluesJazz

    Link to Bain report:

    http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/8-admin-of-education-pg/101-strategic-review-of-education.htm

    from 6 years ago

    Anyway, the reduction is accepted. However this is another % reduction going into the NI economy. On top of the 3 year pay freeze. retailers beware.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Just to add, this idea of a ‘gold plated’ pension is rubbish. We’re talking an average of less than 7 grand a year for a lifetime in employment.

    A lot of people who spent their lives doing what they were told they should do and paying their own money into a private pension scheme have ended up with nothing.

    Your pension is completely insulated from inflation (depending on how long this freeze lasts), the ups and downs of the markets and the machinations of the financial services sector. That is gold plated – it is priceless, you cannot buy a pension like that on the open market.

    Compare to Fred the Shred at RBS and other private schemes.

    This ongoing comparison with senior b/wankers is tiresome. What is your point exactly – they acted like bastards so you shouldn’t have to pay for your pension ?

    I mean if you’re going to do this whataboutery thing with senior bankers, let’s talk about senior public sector employees. Like your one who ran NI Water, ballsed it up, and was then permitted to “resign” with all her fancy perks in place. It’s not really a fair comparison is it ?

    As for your ideas about cutting all that other stuff .. yeah I’d agree with some of those ideas. But I still don’t agree with cutting things just to pay you a nice pension, and you still haven’t been able to give a good reason why you should have that pension other than “look at that Fred Goodwin, what a bastard”.

    DUP/SF/Alliance decied to cut Nurses and Teachers pay in NI, not the Conservatives. It was a devolved decision.

    Stop lying. Pension contributions, which are voluntary, were increased.

    But things like foreign holidays and Sky are now going to be luxuries for the average teacher/police/nurse.

    Unemployment is rising, people are ending up in the dole queue, there’s no immediate end in sight and meanwhile you’re not happy because you’ll have to cancel Sky Sports in order to keep your guaranteed job and your gold plated pension. Do you realize how unreasonable you sound ?

    Of course no-one will starve, but we would like to think our sacrifice is at least recognised. We weren’t living the life of Reilly like Builders during the boom.

    Damn right you were. The civil service has dramatically increased in size over the past 15 years. Public sector spending in NI is roughly double what it was in ~1997.

    And I hate to break this to you, but most of those of us who aren’t in the public sector are not builders or property moguls. I don’t see why you think that their bad behaviour gives you some sort of license to make demands of everyone else.

    They made their money-and left us to pick up the bill. Rant over.

    I don’t think that is true. This issue of public sector pensions and how they are paid for was always going to come up. It’s a fundamental issue for me that my own pension fund is taxed (when Gordon ended the dividend tax rebate) and the proceeds are used to pay for yours; I would not mind if everyone had the same entitlements, but that isn’t the case. That isn’t right. Add to that the fact that I don’t know what half of you do all day and there still isn’t a good reason why average sick leave rates in the civil service are so much higher than in the private sector.

  • BluesJazz

    I haven’t had a sick day this century. 2 days in 1999 in 20 years, I can remember them.And boy was I ill. I tried to take them as leave but was refused.
    Let’s focus on who created the bubble. Reckless builders, bankers, and a compliant Labour government. Peter Robinson was an estate agent with links to property developers. Obviously he did nothing illegal, but …a picture emerges.
    As to your own pension.. The socialist government at the time will have to explain that one. A good reason why they should never be allowed in to power ever again.
    ps Aren’t the(coalition) Lib Dems your ‘sister’ party?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Bluesjazz

    “I tried to take them as leave but was refused”.

    Why did you try to take them as leave if you’re on conventional civil service terms and conditions ?

  • 241934 john brennan

    This thread began because our ‘secretive and cowardly ‘ devolved government simply rubber stamped a ‘British Imperial’ decision to impose a levy on public servants’ pay – no public debate in the Assembly, no consultations with public service unions – no consideration of alternatives – in fact, just devolution without accountable government.

    If devolved government is, as it seems to be, simply a matter of rubber stamping Westminster edicts, then all we need to do the job is one sixteen year old Clerical Assistant on the minimum wage – not the full panoply of expensive, pretend government at Stormont.

    Only in an Alice in Wonderland type scenario, would a Deputy First Minister be allowed to set aside his pledge of office to serve his people to the best of his ability – and be given a couple of months paid leave (at the people’s expense) to go off to campaign in an election for president in another jurisdiction, with the intention of setting aside his Stormont pledge of office, repudiating an IRA code of honour (oath), and doing a somersault by taking another oath to uphold the constitution of a state, whose legitimacy he never before recognised?
    Not Even Lewis Carroll could make it up!

  • BluesJazz

    nun
    just wanted a clean record..

    241934 john brennan

    Spot on. If a lake in Carrick is restocked with trout, ‘ministers’ and mla’s are on hand to be filmed by the compliant media as an example of how devolution is working, getting things done etc.
    When jobs are lost or pay freezes and pension levies are introduced, silence.
    No journalist wants to go outside the herd and ask awkward questions. Did anyone even ask if we really needed an ‘old people’s commisioner’? Another useless quango for the block grant to indulge.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Bluesjazz

    Bit self-defeating, that; that’s an own goal and if you don’t mind me saying a bit of an abuse of your terms and conditions (sick leave is there to take account of when you are genuinely unwell enough to not attend work, that’s why it’s part of your contract as it happens to most people from time to time) and, whatever about the unwellness compounded by attending work while sick (your choice, not a smart one in my view medically, but there you go), potentially disrespectful of your other colleagues (or your employer) should you have been carrying anything contagious.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I haven’t had a sick day this century. 2 days in 1999 in 20 years, I can remember them.And boy was I ill. I tried to take them as leave but was refused.

    Isn’t it irritating when people stereotype you with the rest ?

    You have a right to sick leave. But there’s a problem when the public sector is several times that of the private sector.

    Let’s focus on who created the bubble. Reckless builders, bankers, and a compliant Labour government. Peter Robinson was an estate agent with links to property developers. Obviously he did nothing illegal, but …a picture emerges.

    Why change the subject ? I thought we were talking about your pension contributions, not the fact that various bastards screwed up the economy.

    Don’t you think it damages your case by trying to contextualize your expectation for a pension alongside the bankers and politicians who crashed the economy ?

    Anyway, if it were me, I’d have the people who ran the large banks prosecuted and jailed, and I’d have banned them from ever taking company directorships again. I’d have nationalized all the large banking institutions together with the property portfolios they held and keep them under state control until the market returned to health. I’d have fired all the senior bankers and promoted talented middle level managers on new contracts. And once I’d got done, I’d still be looking for a good reason why civil servants deserve an expensive and unattainable pension.

    As to your own pension.. The socialist government at the time will have to explain that one. A good reason why they should never be allowed in to power ever again.

    I don’t see that the Tories would have done any different. The political culture in this country of placating the City is the real problem here, and that’s where both the Tories and Labour have taken their cue from.

    ps Aren’t the(coalition) Lib Dems your ‘sister’ party?

    No, I don’t have a sister party.

    John B:

    If devolved government is, as it seems to be, simply a matter of rubber stamping Westminster edicts, then all we need to do the job is one sixteen year old Clerical Assistant on the minimum wage – not the full panoply of expensive, pretend government at Stormont.

    John, that’s all well and good but it still doesn’t explain why the public sector employees are entitled to a fancy expensive pension without having to pay a little extra towards it.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Comrade Stalin: Civil servants, including public servants, in so called non-contributory pensions schemes, have always had basic wage settlements based on 93% of comparable workers in the private sector i.e. an across the board de facto 7% deduction on earnings. (Note: This saved the exchequer the expense of first paying and then collecting deductions for pensions) Hence the myth of a non-contributory pension.

    The proposed additioanal 3.2% levy effectively means a 10.2% deduction on top of National Insurance contributions plus income tax – now with no return until after 66th birthdays
    Live horse and you’ll get grass?

  • BluesJazz

    There are several different pension schemes in operation. The civil service don’t pay anything towards their pension. Teachers, NHS and local govt workers pay around 7% with the employer paying a similar amount. The armed forces get a different deal. I understand military pensions (rightly) will not suffer in this levy.

    Northern Ireland has a large percentage of its workforce in the public sector. That means there is going to be less money to spend in the private sector. So a knock on effect will be a consequence across the board. Whatever the outcome there should have been a debate on the issue.

  • Nunoftheabove

    241934

    “have always had basic wage settlements based on 93% of comparable workers in the private sector ” – chapter and verse, please.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Nun: Civil servants pay traditionally determined by an Independent Pay Review Body – who look at pay of comparable grades in the private sector and then ‘ award’ civil servants the average salaries paid to those comparable grades. – reduced by 7% for the ‘notional non-contributory pension element.’

  • Nunoftheabove

    241934 john brennan

    Chapter and verse please, apart from anything else I’d like to see the methodology used for job-matching and which sectors of the private sector they benchmark against. I can’t wait to see what they’re benchmarking civil service pension provision against.

  • BluesJazz

    Civil servants are actually less than 10% of the public sector though thry enjoy a batter deal on pensions:
    here’s the background

    http://www.civilservant.org.uk/pensions.shtml

  • manics1000

    I think, regardless of feelings on the public versus private argument on pension arrangements, the public sector have every right to lodge their protests based upon the simple fact that terms and conditions are to be amended to pay for a crisis not of their making. This is simply not fair and any inkling of weakness will deem the sector suitable for picking off again in the future. Whether the proposed changes are fair in their affordability is a separate argument.

  • BluesJazz

    manics
    There was a debate on tuition fees, compare and contrast there.
    And the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is still freely available to students here.
    Stormont wanted to hide the fact that they have effectively introduced an extra tax on public servants. By means of a grubby back room deal where politicians pensions were totally exempted.

  • manics1000

    Bluesjazz, I didn’t expect anything less than this after Danny Alexander gave the explicit threat to the block grant.

    Take your voice to the protest at Parliament Buildings tomorrow at 12.30.

  • Old Mortality

    manics1000
    “terms and conditions are to be amended to pay for a crisis not of their making”

    But they didn’t complain when their terms and conditions were being improved on the back of unsustainable tax revenues from property and financial services. Now that those revenues have all but evaporated, it’s no longer possible to keep them in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Very simple, really.

  • Neil

    It shouls have been brought up in the assembly I agree. Though I suspect forcing a small payment for pensions might have been quite a popular idea amongst the nearly 70% of us in the private sector and some more pragmatic souls in the public sector who would also support a small charge for pensions.

    The laughable thing is that many of our local workers (if not most of them) will end up in shit jobs for (multinational?) employers earning around minimum wage. Those people will take their meagre earnings home and have nothing left come the end of the week, sustaining themselves and their kids on a pittance.

    They are the people who should be incensed at the notion of having to take a day off from serving whoppers or scrubbing floors because of their kid’s school is closed so that someone who earns three times their wages won’t have to pay a reasonable amount of money to a pension which as CS points out you couldn’t buy.

    That worker earning minimum wage will lose a day’s wages for this, and the real hoot is they will pay for that public sector worker’s pension through their taxes, and they probably don’t even have a pension of their own! Priceless.

    In aid of those earlier arguments reharding differentials between public and private sector workers this doc seems to have it all, well worth a look: http://www.dfpni.gov.uk/2010-11-pay-and-workforce-technical-annex.pdf

    And before anyone says it I don’t advocate a race to the bottom, but it’s a small payment towards pension costs, and at the end of the day I pay more and will get a lesser product when I retire (possibly nothing, no gaurantees for the likes of me)! So if you want to say strike then have the honesty to say that’s it’s entirely narrow selfish interest that gains your support, and has nothing to do with the erosion of services – if services were eroded further to pay for your pension pot there’d be no strike.

  • BluesJazz

    Public Sector includes everyone from teaching assistants on just above minimum wage to consultant surgeons on £120k+. Final salary is to be replaced by ‘career average’.

    So it’s not the pot of gold many think it is, especially for those at the bottom.

    The best of the public sector pensions, and boy is it ‘gold-plated’., is reserved for MP’s and MLA’s. It is exempt from the levy and may go some way to explain the concencus and relative secrecy around this.

  • Local Government Officer

    This among other gems… “If someone told me I could have a guaranteed, unbreakable pension in exchange for a 3% cut out of my salary I’d sign up there and then. Public sector workers are voluntarily paying into a gold-plated guaranteed pension.”

    Indeed. If someone told me, I’d be delighted too. Before you get on your high horse, our local government pensions are good – but they ain’t as good as the mainstream civil service.

    I think you have to realise – and I speak only from the local government end of things – that you have to be in a VERY long time, longer than you get as a life sentence, to see this gold plated nonsense. I don’t think there are many bin men, recycling people, park attendants, receptionists and all the rest who are seeing anything resembling gold plated.

    I myself am in around 5 years. I started my own private pension, topped with contributions from my very generous *private* sector employer when I was 22. I say generous because they were good enough to offer me the contributions that they would have made to their own in-house scheme.

    After 12 years of doing that, when I moved into the council, there was enough to transfer in and buy – wait for it – just under 3 years of pension. I’m in my very late-30’s now. Even if I stick around in this job – which I won’t – for the next 25 years, it STILL won’t be close to what some on this site seem to think it is.

    And the number of people who go into local government and stay there for 30 years is vastly dwindling. I won’t be there because the project contract I work on runs out next year. Oh…sorry…you thought we were all on permanent contracts…? Don’t I just hate to spoil that illusion for you too.

    Neil wrote: “That worker earning minimum wage will lose a day’s wages for this, and the real hoot is they will pay for that public sector worker’s pension through their taxes, and they probably don’t even have a pension of their own! Priceless.”

    Well, I dunno about anyone else, but I started out in an ACE scheme, and I still managed to put something away. If people don’t make the sacrifice, they’ve no one but themselves to blame. Ain’t that just the sort of tough love that no one dares breathe or wants to read about any more?

    Old Mortality wrote: “But they didn’t complain when their terms and conditions were being improved on the back of unsustainable tax revenues from property and financial services.”

    Again, that may well apply to some sections of the public sector. But I assure you, there has not been so much as a penny increase where I work since 2007, predating our fabulous crash. That said, I am *grateful* for a job in these times. I *support* the increase. I *do not and will not* support a strike. Read that bit again before you write a response.

    As I say, I can’t comment on civil service pensions; I know anytime I see a financial adviser, they always say “don’t move that money”, but please – a little realism here. The notion of gold-plated is very far from the truth. A little more factual stuff and a little less of the broad brush strokes would go a long way.

    By the way, Cynic – have I picked up over time that you ran your own business? If I’m wrong, I beg forgiveness. If I’m not, I really hope that you provided your employees with some sort of pension scheme. Otherwise, is the view good from your glass house?

  • Old Mortality

    Neil
    “Though I suspect forcing a small payment for pensions might have been quite a popular idea amongst the nearly 70% of us in the private sector”

    Sadly if only that were true. It’s little more than 60%, depending if you’re taking into account everyone who relies on the public sector for an income. Criminal lawyers are a good example.
    If you’re figure was correct,I’m sure the executive would not have been so reticent on this issue.

  • Old Mortality

    LGO
    I’m surprised that you could get admitted to the local government scheme while employed under a temporary contract, albeit a lengthy one it seems.
    More to the point, you were willing to transfer your pension to the local government scheme.
    Of course, low-paid council employees have relatively small pensions-it’s because they are low-paid. However, they know that however small the sum, it’s guaranteed.

    ‘Old Mortality wrote: “But they didn’t complain when their terms and conditions were being improved on the back of unsustainable tax revenues from property and financial services.”
    Again, that may well apply to some sections of the public sector. But I assure you, there has not been so much as a penny increase where I work since 2007, predating our fabulous crash.’
    The increases before 2007 when tax revenues from the City and the property market were growing rapidly, are what I was referring to.

  • Neil

    Well, I dunno about anyone else, but I started out in an ACE scheme, and I still managed to put something away. If people don’t make the sacrifice, they’ve no one but themselves to blame.

    Well, where to start, How about getting Public sector workers to ‘sacrafice’ a few percent of their wages for a pension? Nah? Didn’t think so.

    I’d also add that from your post I can assume that when you started on your ACE scheme diesel wasn’t sitting at 1.42 and inflation heading for 5%? You see the obvious difference? How in God’s name is someone on minimum wage with kids supposed to squirrel anything away, in case you didn’t hear 25% of young kids will be living in poverty two years from now. We are apparantly in a graver situation than anyone has experienced in our lifetime, so you can’t compare when you started out with now.

    The sad thing is that those kids will probably be the offspring of workers. Workers who can’t afford to push themselves further into poverty, but over their lifetime will pay thousands if not tens of thousands in taxes so someone immeasurably wealthier than they can have a pension once their 30/40/50/60k a year job ends.

    And our worker who pays for this will earn a fraction of the money and end up, having paid for public sector pensions. with no pension of their own. You think this is fair?

  • Neil

    Should read (for clarity):

    Workers who can’t afford to push themselves further into poverty by joining a pension scheme, but over their lifetime

  • Local Government Officer

    “Well, where to start, How about getting Public sector workers to ‘sacrafice’ a few percent of their wages for a pension? Nah? Didn’t think so.”

    Sorry, Neil – I refer to the part that says: “I *support* the increase. I *do not and will not* support a strike. Read that bit again before you write a response.”

    And I stand over what I wrote – ACE wages were 90 quid a week, with a top-up of a few quid, if you were lucky. Unemployment was running at around 12-13%; that didn’t include the 130,000 people on training schemes. Around that time, if I have the figures right, inflation was running at 4 percent.

    But I realise that what I wrote won’t be popular with anyone who couldn’t be arsed putting a little bit away. I equally say to you that the mealy-mouthed way that the private sector has – absolutely unchecked by government – plundered in some cases and then abolished pensions seems to go completely un-discussed. I wonder if the right course of action would be instead to look at how the private sector should be motivated to raise their game, as opposed to the very easy target of making the public sector lower theirs.

    But then, that’s it, isn’t it? All that time when things were so good, and the situation went unchallenged.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Local Government Officer

    The average public sector pension payout is around £7.8k (the TUC don’t dispute this overall figure, incidentally but don’t holler nearly loudly enough about it, it seems to me) according to the 2010 report authored by His Lordly Huttonness of Furnesshire. NAPF figures from 2010 show that the mean annual average value of a DB pension was £7.5k. It’s estimated that a private sector employee – almost invariably, these days, as they are, in a DC pension – needs to build up a pot of around £200k to secure an annuity of c. £7.8k.

    Just for detail/context incientally, the office of National Statistics suggests that average pay is higher (oh yes) in the public sector. The latest figures from the annual survey of hours and earnings puts the median average gross salary of a public sector worker at £13.54 an hour.

    ONS numbers suggest that private sector companies contribute around 6% on average to DC schemes. PWC estimated that the figure would have to rise to northwards of 30% – that’ll be thirty percent, then – if a private sector firm wanted to match a current typical public sector pension.

  • Local Government Officer

    Nun, that the public sector wage is higher is not in doubt, and nowhere have I ever posted to the contrary. Again, I repeat, I have no problem with the increase, and if they want more they can have it – that’s what taxes are for.

    I’ll revisit what I said earlier, with an added context to your comment about wages – when did we conveniently pick out the public sector as the target for lowering the bar, rather than ensuring the private sector kept up? I still contend more could and should have been done to ensure that this was the case.

    I’m reminded of the days when the CBI, the FSB and others whined and complained about the minimum wage, because it would put them all out of business. Similarly when there was an extension to maternity leave, the introduction of paternity leave, a fair deal for agency workers, and so on.

    Again, I think commenters need to take a wide and more incisive view when it comes to this topic than they are presented by the Daily Mail, with phrases like “gold-plated”. In addition, given the mobility of jobs, and my earlier comment about the increasing rarity of workers in 30 year jobs, I’d be interested to see how well that £7.5k stands in the next 10, 20 and 30 years, with people changing jobs on a much more regular basis than ever has been seen before.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Local Government Officer

    Indeed, £7.8k doesn’t leave much scope for a comfortable returement now let alone then – I completely agree that pensions portability is key to serving furture employment needs and we also need to get an understanding of pensions self-management into schools and universities. Mind you, I’ve been saying that about finance and mortgages etc for years and as far as I know it’s yet to happen.

    I agree that we shouldn’t level down but a little recognition by public sector employees that they’re not being overly cruelly punished here in the overall scheme and that they’re not worse off vis-a-vis their private sector counterparts universally or when considered in the round wouldn’t go amiss.

  • Local Government Officer

    Nun

    There aren’t many public sector workers on here commenting with heads above the parapet – but genuinely? I don’t hear many of my colleagues complaining. What everyone does hear is the unions. Because that’s what unions are for. And I’d agree that perhaps they should quieten down a bit on this.

    You make a point about pension portability. Naturally, if/when I leave here, the pension will stay. But I can’t pay into it beyond that day – and rightly so.

    But how hard would it be to have a separate “section” or derogation of one pension, regardless of provider, based on differing rates? Not that hard, I’d wager.

    If I’d taken up the pension opportunity with every employer I’ve had – notwithstanding the one I referred to in an earlier post who made an equivalent contribution to my own pension – I think I’d have had six pension plans by now.

  • Little James

    Is John O’Dowd saying with a straight face that he wont cross the picket line yet he voted for an increase in contributions for public sector workers? Will other SF members stand on the picket line and show solidarity?