British Public Workers Bristle at Plans to Rein in Pensions

Thursday, 10 Mar 2011 12:31 PM

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The Colonies aren’t the only place where public employees are chafing at moves to tighten the government purse strings on their pensions. Their British counterparts are hollering that the Crown’s attempts to rein in their perks are a bloody shame, but a former government official says they should quit whining, according to the London Telegraph.

The controversial proposals to make 6 million public-sector workers work longer and pay more for a smaller pension still leave those workers with "hugely generous" settlements, according to Ros Altmann, a former government pensions adviser, the Telegraph reported.

Unions and trade are in a lather, including strike threats, about the proposals, most of which are expected to pass.

But Altmann, who now is director-general of Saga insurance, told the Telegraph: "Lord Hutton's recommendations on public sector pensions have led to calls for industrial action by public sector unions, but the reality is that his proposals will still leave them with hugely generous pensions that most private sector workers could never hope to achieve.

"Lord Hutton has left most of the difficult decisions about pension funding to the government and has made broad headline recommendations with details to be filled in by the Treasury in negotiation with the unions."

Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, told the Telegraph, "Lord Hutton had a real chance to make sure low paid public sector workers have good quality, affordable pension schemes, but in failing to address the key issue of affordability to members, that chance has been wasted. Many of his conclusions are questionable and will infuriate public sector workers. It's not cogent enough to be a blueprint for reform but it might well light the blue touch paper for industrial action."

Lord Hutton, who counters that replacing final salary pension schedules with career average pensions would benefit lower-paid workers, has said he is trying to make the more fair.

By 2015, most employees should be able to retire at state pension age, which is to rise to 66 in 2020, he said.

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