The Railway Pensions Commission published its final report on Tuesday of last week. It represents another attack on workers’ pension rights in Britain.
The commission lays out recommendations that would cut the benefits of almost every group of rail workers – and the report does not come close to meeting the demands of the unions.
The rail unions agreed to the commission in 2006 to “independently” look into a solution to rising pensions contributions and the chaos caused by the break-up of schemes due to privatisation.
There are now 103 pension schemes in the industry.
The RMT, TSSA and Aslef unions had been balloting members for industrial action to defend and improve workers’ pension rights.
The commission has suggested that employers withdraw the additional superannuated scheme (Brass) for rail workers with protected benefits who joined the industry before 1994.
It has suggested the same happens to workers who started in the industry after 1994 plus their retirement age should be raised to 65 and early retirement benefits reduced.
New starters in the industry would have a new scheme based on two thirds of the benefits of the Railway Pensions Scheme (RPS) and a scheme that would put some workers on far lower benefits.
The unions’ pension campaign called for common RPS rights for all workers and a cap on employee contributions of 10.56 percent.
The commission also goes against previous victories that were won, such as Network Rail new starters having the right to transfer onto the final salary RPS scheme after five years of employment.
It would cast in stone inequality of pension rights by length of service. The document makes reference to the £1.8 billion surplus that existed in 1993. This was then partly used to subsidise the employers’ Brass contributions.
If the employers can use our pension money when the scheme is in surplus then we must expect them to pay the price when our schemes face a deficit. When the report was published employers like Network Rail immediately welcomed it.
Unfortunately, there were not immediate responses from the unions. If the rail unions are to honour the campaigning objectives to protect and improve rail workers’ pension rights, the campaign needs to be relaunched.
We will need to build up for industrial action that will have to be won to defend our pensions.