Ill-Health Pensions 2007

Pensions Ballot Result

Published on: Tue, 24/07/2007 - 16:15

There has been a massive 15-1 Yes vote for strike action to defend ill-heatlh pension entitlement. This gives a mandate for strike action by RMT members not only on London Underground, but in Metronet, TubeLines, EDF, REW and Cubic. The turnout wasn't great, though (over 11,000 were balloted), probably reflecting the fact that this has been very much a top-down campaign so far.

Here's RMT's press release ...

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RMT seeks guarantees on ill-health pensions

RMT members working for companies covered by the Transport for London Pension Fund have voted by a massive 15-to-one margin for strike action to protect the pension rights of people forced to leave their jobs through ill-health.

The union is calling on the employers involved (list below) to guarantee that they will not bring forward or support proposed changes that would dramatically affect qualification for ill-health pensions.

At present, ill-health pensions are granted to workers in the TfL fund whose ill-health makes them unfit to do their particular job. Proposed changes would mean that anyone capable of earning an income, regardless of how small, would probably not qualify for or retain an ill-health pension. (see notes below).

"This ballot result shows what our members think of a plan that would deprive most people who leave work through ill-health of their pensions," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.

"Our members have made it crystal clear that they are prepared to take strike action to defend their hard-won pension rights.

"Rather than laying siege to employees who suffer ill-health the trustees should simply scrap the fund rule that allows annual review of ill-health pensions.

"We do not want to have to bat these changes away time after time, and we are seeking guarantees from all the employers involved that they will not seek or back cost-cutting changes that will undermine ill-health benefits," Bob Crow said.

ends

Notes to editors: In the ballot that closed today, 3,141 (93.7 per cent) voted for strike action, and 212 (6.3 per cent) against. The employers involved are: London Underground, TfL, Metronet, Tubelines, Cubic Transportation, REW and EDF Energy.

TfL Pension Fund - Ill-health pensions now

At present if medical evidence indicates that a member is unfit to do his or her own job, an ill-health pension would be granted. That pension is based upon length of fund membership, plus up to ten additional years' service. The pension may be suspended if the individual recovers to 100 per cent fitness, or revised to reflect an income. Where an income is earned, if the income plus TfL pension is greater than that of their previous job, the pension is reduced so that the individual's overall earnings are not greater.

What TfL management wants to do:

TfL management's favoured proposal would see ill-health pensions split into two parts: a basic pension and an additional ill-health supplement. If the individual recovers, the ill-health supplement would be withdrawn, which would mean that individuals under 50 (or 55 from 2010) would be unable to continue drawing their basic pension.

Crucially, the test for receiving an ill-health pension would be changed to an 'all-work' test rather than the current 'own-job' test, which would leave the majority of those leaving employment due to ill-health facing the prospect of their pension being stopped because they would not be totally incapacitated.

A train operator who developed eyesight problems, for example, would be unable to continue in employment as a train operator but would not receive an ill-health pension under the proposed changes if he or she remained fit for some other form of work.

The employers have sought to exploit inconsistencies between the TfL Pension Fund Office's Guidelines on ill-health pensions and the existing Scheme Rules. However, the union has proposed that the Scheme rules be amended in line with the Fund Office Guidelines (which also reflect members' conditions of service), and that the current rule, 19 (5), which allows review of ill-health pensions, simply be abolished.

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Defend Ill-Health Pensions

Published on: Sun, 24/06/2007 - 10:32

Make no mistake - the threat to dilute your right to an ill-health pension is a serious one.

At the moment, if you become too unwell to continue in your current job, your employment can be terminated on medical grounds and you will get a 10-year enhancement on your pension and no reduction for early retirement.

Quite right too - especially in an industry like ours where decades of shift work can wreck your health. It could happen to you or any of your workmates - arthritis, deteriorating vision, heart problems, blood pressure, injury, whatever. Poor health causes great difficulties for people - our current pension arrangements mean that there is one less thing to worry about when you are sick with anxiety about your job, your family, your lifestyle, your future.

Not if management get their way, though. They want the enhanced pension rule to apply only if you are unfit to do not just your own job but any other job. So you can't walk any more? You could work in a call centre then, couldn't you?! You can't go on the track any more so you can't be a protection master or a technician or a driver or station supervisor? Never mind - sell tickets instead. Worse pay, different work, different location - and no enhanced pension.

The unions should be up in arms about this. Tubeworker has heard nothing from TSSA or ASLEF (please enlighten us if we've missed something), but RMT has rightly declared its intention to move towards industrial action. But Tubeworker sees a couple of problems with its approach so far that it needs to overcome.

Firstly, as we have commented previously, a lot of the union's material about pensions - particularly the Official Circulars, less so the recent Regional Council leaflet - are hard to understand and full of jargon and unnecessary technical detail. Secondly, the union has dumped the dispute over the Rule Books and been very slow out of the blocks over the ticket office closures - both issues on which members want to fight the employer. The officer leading the pensions issue (Assistant General Secretary Pat Sikorski) is largely responsible for the Rule Books fiasco, so has lost credibility with rank-and-file activists. It is as though he wanted to clear the decks of all other business in order to make space for the pensions fight.

Both top officials and local officials need to recognise that what counts is what affects the ordinary members. There are no campaigns that 'belong' to one person and therefore should or shouldn't be supported on that basis. We need a fight on pensions and on the ticket office closures and on the rule books. It can be problematic having to fight over several issues at once, but if management are attacking us on several fronts then we have no choice.

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Stand By To Defend Your Pension

Published on: Sun, 18/03/2007 - 20:56

Here's the line-up of management attacks on you and your workmates' pension rights:

  • You currently get an ill-health pension if illness or injury prevent you doing your own job. Management want to change it so you only get the pension if you become unfit to do any job.
  • TfL want to appoint a so-called 'independent' chair of the Trustee Board, which will shift the balance of power in favour of the employers.
  • A group of workers re-privatised and transferred from Metronet to Dalkia have been unable to properly join the TfL pension fund despite government guarantees that they should be able to.
  • The TfL Pension Fund is still not open to all Metronet and TubeLines staff.

RMT has warned the employers that unless they sort these issues out, the union will be in dispute with them.

Quite right. But if the union is going to go into dispute, then it has to make members better aware of the issues. Even when it does send out information, it is often long-winded, jargonistic and consequently very hard to understand. A recent Official Circular took three pages to give the information Tubeworker gives above.

Tubeworkers need and deserve to be alerted to attacks on our pension rights in a clear and understandable way.

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Hands Off Our Pensions

Published on: Mon, 04/09/2006 - 17:13

Management have a plan to gnaw away at your pension rights. This time, it's ill-health pensions that they're after. Rumours abound that they want to tighten the rules on eligibility, so that in future, even if you have to retire from your job because of your health, you won't neceearily get an ill-health pension.

The annual members' meeting of the Pension Fund is coming up at the start of October. Tube workers should make our voices heard at this meeting: hands off our pensions!

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