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Unions launch legal challenge over ‘unfair’ NHS pensions

Money in pile.


Six unions include the RCN have joined together to launch legal action over pension changes they argue unfairly penalise NHS and public sector staff.   

They want to prevent the Government from making pension scheme members share the cost of rectifying age discrimination against young members that arose during NHS and public sector pension reform in 2015.

The RCN, Unite, the Fire Brigades Union, GMB, Public and Commercial Services Unions and the Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers argue the Government decision to make staff bear some of the estimated £17bn cost is unfair.

Graham Revie, chair of the RCN Trade Union Committee, said the Government must ‘remedy’ the age discrimination costs ‘without unfairly penalising members of the NHS pension scheme’.

‘We’re fighting for the rights of our members to have the pensions they deserve after years of devoted service to the NHS,’ he added.

The 2015 reforms meant older people were allowed to stay on their original pension schemes, but younger workers were required to join the new schemes without any protection.

But the Government is seeking to share the estimated £17bn – or £2.5bn a year – bill to rectify the discrimination by including it in a mechanism called ‘cost control’. This adjusts pension contributions if the actual cost of the pension scheme diverges from the targeted cost by 2% or more.

In 2016, a valuation found the cost to run the pension scheme was significantly less than forecasted. To counter this, the Government agreed in 2018 to improve pension benefits and reduce contribution rates.

However, the Government now wants to transfer the costs of remedying its age discrimination into the valuation of the pension scheme. This means the improved benefits for members previously agreed would no longer be honoured as the scheme would become more expensive to run.

This come after RCN members on Agenda for Change contracts in England and Wales last month said they would take industrial action over  3% pay rise.

In the Scottish ballot, nine in 10 polled said they would be willing to take industrial action short of a strike – while six in 10 would go as far as taking strike action.

And Northern Ireland announced that NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts will receive the 3% pay rise recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body, following months of delays.