SEVEN unions held a joint demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday against the government’s imposed changes in the way they calculate pensions, robbing workers of thousands of pounds.
The government are now calculating how much pensions should increase to be in line with inflation using the the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather then Retail Price Index (RPI).
The Retail Price Index includes the rate mortgages are increasing and so gives a higher more acurate rate of inflation.
The move, which was imposed in April last year, was announced by Chancellor Osborne in the June 2010 budget, without any consultation or negotiation.
At an earlier hearing three High Court judges agreed with the unions that deficit reduction was the motivation for the switch and two of them said the work and pensions secretary was within his rights to take into account public finances.
Because one judge dissented and backed the union case an appeal was lodged.
The seven unions involved are the Communication Workers’ Union, Fire Brigades’ Union, teachers’ union NASUWT, Prison Officers’ Association, Public and Commercial Services union, Unison (PCS) and Unite.
The PCS gave out a leaflet outside the Royal Courts of Justice which said: ‘The switch from using the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the usually lower Consumer Price Index (CPI) to uprate pensions affects millions of workers in the public and private sectors.
‘The change will reduce the value of pensions by up to 20 per cent over a normal retirement – and cost every affected worker thousands of pounds.’
Outside the court PCS member Nigel Green, who works for the Royal Parks, said: ‘We are here to protest about the government’s onslaught on our pensions and our pay and conditions.
‘This specific court case at the Royal Courts of Justice is concerning our pensions.
‘The government have imposed this change from RPI to CPI and it means that we lose thousands from our pensions.
‘Over a 20-year retirement pension fund it could be as much as £10,000 or even more that we lose.
‘I would say that this is a robbery, it is our entitlement, we expected to have a pension that was linked to the RPI rather then the CPI.
‘It is not enough to go through the courts. The PCS are pushing for co-ordinated strike action on the 28th March.
‘Speaking in a personal capacity, I certainly think it is a good idea to bring this government down.’
Tony Davis, the branch secretary for North/North West CWU branch, said: ‘This is going to affect my members massively.
‘From when they receive their pension aged 65 to when they die they could lose a third of the value of their pension.
‘This is because of inflation, which is currently at 3.5%.
‘My members have paid in to their pensions on an agreed basis and now to have that money stolen by the government is an absolute disgrace!’
Ex-Ford/Visteon Workers had come down to the Royal Courts of Justice to join in the demonstration.
Dave Coonz, ex-Ford/Visteon worker and Unite member, said: ‘I was working for Ford for 30-years and the motor company gave us a contract that said Ford mirrored terms and conditions for life including pensions.
‘That was part of the separation programme when Visteon was created as a subsidiary of Ford.
‘Visteon collapsed on March 31 2009 leaving a £350million deficit in the pension scheme.
‘When they went into administration all the Visteon UK plants were occupied by the workforce.
‘Out of that fight, they won redundancy money which wasn’t even on the table before the struggle.
‘However this still leaves the pensions deficit.
‘I have lost 40% of my pension and this is disgusting.
‘With these changes from RPI to CPI which takes out the mortgage calculation I will lose even more!
‘Our fight now is for pensions against Ford motor company and we have a weekly picket every Saturday at Rayleigh in Essex from 10am till 12 and everyone should come down and support us.
‘We have also organised a protest and march on the 28th March which is the 3rd Anniversary of Visteon going into administration.
‘It starts at the Unite offices mid morning and ends up at parliament square.
‘Everyone is welcome to join in and show your support.’
Tim from the GMB union said: ‘We are here supporting this joint trade union appeal against the imposition of CPI rather then RPI in calculating our pensions.
‘The government is trying to reduce the countries deficit.
‘State pensions, private pensions and public pensions are being made to pay for the bankers mismanagement.
‘This is not just about current pensions but we are fighting for future generations.
‘Ultimately if they get their way then people will not want to join pension schemes and may probably spend their later years of life in poverty.’
Nasuwt teachers union local rep Liz Horsman told News Line: ‘I have taught in state schools since 1972 and I have been paying in to my pension since then.
‘I have a document dated the year 2000 saying that my pension is linked to RPI.
‘I have made my plans and arrangements based on the government’s promise that my pension will keep pace with big price rises.
‘If this were the case it would mean that I would not have to ask for benefits in my old age, but now it is not the case and it’s too late for a state pension.
‘The banks have been done badly for mis-selling Payment Protection Insurance (PPI).
‘But what about the government? They cannot be allowed to get away with not telling the truth. This is my money! It is my deferred wages!
‘During my entire teaching career, teachers only got a pay rise when the government could not get enough people who are willing to accept the low wages that teachers receive.
‘Part of the package was that even though the pay was not great you were assured a decent pension at the end of it.
‘I am furious about this, steam is coming out of my ears!’
Alf Baillie came down with a delegation from the National Pensioners Convention. He said: ‘We are here to make a legitimate protest to save our pensions.
‘We have to safeguard pensions for the future.
‘The move from RPI to CPI is just a dirty trick to do us out of our money.
‘There are some pensioners living in abject poverty and it is getting worse.
‘With all these millionaires in the government, how can they possibly know what pensioners are going through. We are definitely not all in this together.’
Bill Howe, with the ex-Ford/Visteon delegation said: ‘I am here from Ford Avely plant.
‘When we signed our pensions we got clear contracts that said that pension increases would be inline with RPI not CPI and we do not think that the government has the right to change our contractual agreements made with a private company.
‘I am here to support the Unite union. I am also in the campaign against the closure of King George’s hospital in East London.
‘They are closing King George’s facilities and moving them to Queen’s hospital in Romford which can not cope with the extra numbers of people using it.
‘They are trying to close maternity and the A&E at King George’s.
‘Our campaign chair is Andy Walker and we will do whatever is necessary to save the hospital.’
Linda Bartle from the Visteon Action Pensions Group said: ‘I have come down to support Unite because they are supporting us in our pensions fight.
‘The issue of pensions is a big fight for us and we will lose money through the change from CPI to RPI.’