Public sector pensions and 'gold-plated' remark spark debate
Lord Hutton's interim report from his independent review of pensions in the public sector gives the lie to the view of the Westminster Government that public sector pensions are gold-plated and unreformed. Lord Hutton is also clear that notional schemes serve a purpose and should be retained.
However, the EIS believes that his report has raised a number of significant issues for the public sector:
1. The reforms of the previous Government have not yet been subject to scheme valuations. Therefore, one of Lord Hutton's central themes, that the reforms do not take sufficient account of longevity, is untested.
2. The preference for career average rather than final salary-defined benefits should not be a matter of political imposition but should be discussed in the specific scheme discussions. There should be no "one size fits all".
3. The requirement for employees to increase contributions to provide short-term savings at a time of pay restraint is an attack on the living standards of public sector workers.
There will be much anger among Scottish teachers at this report. We believed that the 2007 reforms, negotiated between teachers' unions across the UK and relevant pension agencies, were sustainable in the long term and were told so by Government and Treasury. The decision to undermine pension provision and ask teachers to pay more to bail out the economy in the short term is unacceptable.
The STUC demonstration on October 23 will give public expression to our anger, and we expect many thousands of teachers and lecturers to join the demonstration to oppose cuts in services and cuts in public sector living standards, including pensions.
Kay Barnett, president, Educational Institute of Scotland, Edinburgh.