Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Housing staff set to join public sector strike

Social housing providers will be hit by a national day of strike action on Wednesday over plans to change public sector pensions.

Housing officers and repairs staff are set to walk out, joining around one million local government workers across the UK.

The government claims that historically generous public sector pensions are unsustainable, and wants public sector workers to pay more in contributions. The final pension would be based on average earnings over the individual’s whole career, rather than their final salary.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, which represents around 100,000 housing workers, said: ‘Public sector workers spend their lives providing vital services and care deeply about their communities. They have had their pay frozen and seen rising workloads, as jobs and services are slashed. Now government ministers’ are coming for their pensions.

‘We are willing to negotiate with government ministers’ any time, any place, but we still have no deal that we can put to a single one of these workers. We want pensions that are secure and sustainable and give people dignity in their retirement. The door is open, it’s time to talk.’

Housing workers in arm’s-length management organisations and housing associations made up of stock transferred properties are also affected by the pension changes.

Many associations and councils are planning to close all housing offices on Wednesday.

Readers' comments (40)

  • Daedalus

    Alpha One,

    You typed in a long posting (10:09), but as you got the first sentence wrong, most of what follows is based on a fallacy.

    There isn't a public sector pension SCHEME, there are pension SCHEMES. Only one letter different, but it invalidates all of your maths. Some of the schemes are perfectly viable and some are not. Why try to stupidly address themn all in one go. That is like trying to negotiate a cost of living increase (stop laughing at the back!) for every worker in the country at the same time - it can't be done. Each scheme must be addressed on its individual merits.

    Some of the schemes had their contribution rates increased three years ago to allow for the increased average lifespan of the members, and are now completely viable for many years to come. Some of these schemes do not receive any government money, and any increased contributions will be syphoned off by government to help to address the massive budget deficits.

    Got it now Alpha?

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  • F451

    Joe - to add to your data, which is an excellent slant to the debate - and indeed the nub of it, I believe you will find that the tax subsidy to private pension funds covers they under 4 Million private sector workers subscribing and those among the self employed who have independent schemes. The government contribution to the public sector pensions cover the over 5 Million public sector pension contributers.

    So the vastly lower sum covers considerably more pensions.

    And all because at some point we decided that the State Pension should no longer offer a reasonable standard of living to anyone (can anyone remember when this short term cut was made that is costing so many billions in subsidising private pension funds now?)

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  • Alpha One

    Daedalus, you are quite simple really aren't you, scheme or schemes the situation is absolutely the same and EVERYTHING I stated remains true.

    The public sector seem incapable of realising that they have a finitie pension pot, if that is to stretch further you either need to put more in, claim it later or reduce the number of people claiming from it. The private sector, reluctantly, accepted this 10+ years ago.

    It's simple maths Daedalus, let's bring it down to numbers we can all understand. If you have 5 people in a round of drinks, and everyone puts in £5, you get £25. You go into a pub and buy 5 drinks at £5 a pop, your kitty has maxed out but you had enough money to pay the bar bill.

    Now everyone chips in £5 again, but this time 5 more people arrive, giving you 10 people. Drinks are still £5 each and you only have £25 in the pot, how do you buy 10 £5 drinks with £25?

    That's the simplicity of it. You have a finite amount of money that you are expecting to stretch further for longer without putting in any extra money OR starting claiming the money later.

    It doesn't matter how cash rich those pension pots are now, how much the surplus is now, it cannot support the future retirements which WILL happen.

    F451, as I don't have a pension at the moment, I wouldn't be happy for everyone to drop to my level, as we'd all be poor! However, I'm not suggesting everyone should get the worst deal they can, I'm arguing that the public sector needs to wake up and realise their schemes (see Daedalus I got it right this time!) are not sustainable on current contribution levels.

    I'm also sceptical about your simpler taxation system getting to the non-doms, the very fact they don't live here would make it hard to tax them. Afterall its the non doms that tend to be the super rich. I do agree we need a simpler taxation system, I'm just not sure that it will be able to capture the non-doms in quite the way you think it will. The only way that could happen is iff we offered a taxation system that meant they paid less in tax by being domiciled than by not being.

    I agree that tax breaks at the bottom will help boost the economy, just look at the number of plasma screens people on low incomes have!

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  • F451

    If they are not earning here Alpha we wouldn't tax them - the point is that at the moment even those earning here don't get taxed - even when they then pay for the Tory election campaign and get a Lordship in return.

    You say that the pension schemes are not sustainable as they are - why not?

    If it remains possible for the government to pay vast sums into private pension schemes it surely remains possible for them to fund their own schemes.

    If it is the age dynamic, then that has already been dealt with by raising the retirement age, hasn't it?

    If they wish to state that the real reason is that someone has cleared off with the pot due to a mess up in the market place then that is a different matter - but that has never been put forward as a reason.

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  • & at the end of all this, what has been achieved?

    Some public sector workers have lost a day's pay: many private sector workers have lost a day's pay having to stay at home to look after children whose schools have closed; many thousands have had non-emergency health care treatment cancelled; a lot of teachers have been able to get their Christmas shopping done without needing to organise a training day this year; and where are we now?

    Exactly where everyone started. And we wonder why we're in the sh!t

    Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing

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  • F451

    What has been achieved?

    Well, there has been much debate in many quarters, and it would appear that generally people are now aware that 'gold platted' is a demonisers term and that public sector pensions are of modest value and considerably contributed to. People are also aware that public sector pay is low. And people may be beginning to understand that the private public argument is simply a screen to avoid the real transgressors, the over paid bosses and the government from being seen to be the lying manipulating theiving cheating scoundrals that they are.

    Maybe, the next protest might just be to redress that situation.

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  • May be time to get Housing Association staff delinked from the local authorities in terms of conditions of employment - they should be in the private sector - managing housing stock no big deal.

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  • Alpha One, I'm afraid you are quite wrong in your suppositions.

    There are many schemes available in various sections of the public secotr, and they have different rules.

    Some, like most NHS and teachers' schemes, are unfunded, which means they are paid out of general taxation. Because of the rise in NHS staff in the past few years, contributions to this scheme have actually created a surplus for a numebr of years, creating an income for the Treasury. Job cuts are now reducing the number of contributions sharply, which is creating a deficit, which is why the Treasury is having to pay out.

    Some, like Local Government schemes, are funded through investments in the private sector. Recently, like most investment funds, these investments have lost some value, and there is a growing gap between assets and liabilities.

    You then have differences in the age when these pensions are given, from as early as 40 in the armed forces, to 55 in most armed forces and police, and to 65 in most Local Government and NHS schemes (in some NSH schemes, there is a cut off date for when you're eligible for pension at 60, depending when you joined).

    Employee contributions range from 1.5% in smoe Civil Service schemes, to as much as 12% and more in soem Local Government and Police schemes (there may be others I'm not aware of).

    Employer contribution is also vastly different between schemes.

    The various "gilt edged" pensions that you see reported tend add up together the overall deficits and contributions for all public sector, ignoring assets, ignoring the different levels of contributions, ignoring whether any deficits are payable by the Treasury or not, etc.

    The biggest problem of course is that reports tend to compare the 3m on public sector pensions against the 1m+ of people in public sector pension, and comparing the deficits. It's like comparing Britain's economy with that of Ireland, they are different sizes.

    The truth of the matter is that while contributions were adding to the economy, this was not a problem, and it's only become one in the last 4 years or so. The impact on deficits will be mostly felt if job cuts continue as they are in the public sector, and if changes are not made to the way funds are managed. This means the Government can, and should, introduce measures to reduce deficits, but they should not be looking at making drastic cuts across the board and demonising public sector staff at the same time, it's not necessary.

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  • Daedalus

    Derren Cooper, you are 100% correct. However, it is pointless addressing your post to Alpha One, who is unable or unwilling to understand this simple point.

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  • Partridge John

    As a council tenant in high rise, I was very pleased to pitch at the rally outside the Civic Centre, somewhere in England, on Wednesday last to meet and greet my housing officer and her convenor, and to be advised that "No services are being delivered today". Tenants and housing workers unite, and together let's kick out the Tories!

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