The pension scheme covering 5 million current and former local council staff will collapse if ministers force through plans to make members pay more into it yet receive fewer benefits, the GMB union has warned.
Some 55% of its members who are in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) will opt out of it if the government pushes through its shake-up of public sector pensions, which would raise an extra £900m in contribution increases from 2014 while also reducing the benefits, according to the union.
Brian Strutton, the GMB’s national secretary for public services, said the survey of LGPS members confirmed that the proposed reforms would “destroy” the scheme by encouraging members to quit.
“These proposals won’t generate the savings the government is demanding because members will simply opt out of the scheme,” he added.
“Who benefits from this? Not taxpayers who will have to support these workers in retirement; not councils who will have to sell assets or make more cuts to services to support the obligations they already have to the scheme; and certainly not the school dinner ladies, care workers, binmen, social workers and other scheme members for whom a decent retirement is now in jeopardy.”
The GMB, which represents around 300,000 public sector workers, will on Wednesday publish the result of a strike ballot among them that could see hundreds of thousands of GMB workers joining the UK-wide day of action against the pensions shake-up on 30 November.
Meanwhile, almost half of midwives would think about leaving the NHS pension scheme if the age of retirement rises to 68 as planned, a Royal College of Midwives (RCM) survey shows today.
Some 91% of respondents said they were opposed to that while 46% said, if it happened, they would consider quitting a health service that is already short of 5,000 midwives. “It is no surprise that many midwives may choose to simply walk away from the NHS if proposed changes to their pensions are thrust upon them,” said Cathy Warwick, the RCM’s general secretary.
“The NHS pension scheme last year paid £2bn more to the government than it took out. This is not a pension scheme that is unaffordable, it is one that is helping to prop up our economy. The strength of feeling on this is palpable and the results of this survey should make the politicians and policy makers sit up and take notice,” she added.
Public health minister Anne Milton responded: “We are also protecting the pensions everyone in the NHS has already earned – which means that no low- and middle-income earners currently in the NHS pension scheme will have to work to 68 to get the same pension that they would get now.”
Health secretary Andrew Lansley, who has branded the day of action “premature”, said the NHS pensions scheme is “unsustainable” and reminded NHS staff of their “huge responsibility” to their employers and patients.
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