This pension deal should shock no one

LIFE, as one union leader warned last week, is about to get difficult.

LIFE, as one union leader warned last week, is about to get difficult.

It was never going to be easy getting 14 employee groups to agree changes to the public sector pension scheme. Differing agendas, aspirations and attitudes all come into play as representatives respond to pressure from their members.

It was nevertheless disappointing to hear inflammatory language and threats from one union within a few days of plans to move 4,700 public workers to a Care scheme being unveiled.

After a year of intense negotiations between employees and employer the suggestion from the Unite union that the proposals were an astonishing bolt from the blue seems disingenuous at best.

It was no secret that the working party had been formed with the express purpose of looking for a compromise deal. Given that it was dealing with the thorniest issue on the pay and conditions agenda for public workers it would be surprising if any union leader did not pay close attention to how it was going.

By all accounts, the negotiations were a bruising affair, with the two sides kept at the table by a well-respected arbiter, whose task it was to stay impartial and keep the process moving.

Little surprise then that, having guided the ships through months of storms, he was more than a little peeved when, within a few days of revealing the main parts of the deal, one of the major unions rejected it out of hand.

The question to be asked is whether Unite entered into the negotiating process in good faith or was it just a delaying tactic with only the status quo acceptable?

If so, union members should ask whether such intransigence is in their long-term interests. As time goes on, islanders will become less, not more, accepting of a gold-plated scheme soaking up millions of pounds. Public sector workers cannot hope to be immune to the difficulties faced by the island as a whole.

This may then be the best deal that could be hoped for. Rejecting it before the details are even known will lose public sympathy and risks damaging the island at a time when the pain must be shared.

Comments for: "This pension deal should shock no one"

Spartacus

"It was no secret that the working party had been formed with the express purpose of looking for a compromise deal"

Where is the compromise? The proposals are one sided.

GM

The compromise is that fewer of them will need to be made redundant.

Spartacus

My new dictionary from Santa says that would be an ultimatum rather than a compromise.

Shock horror

Spartacus, I've never been more sure that you're a civil servant

Of the seven-person working group, three were employee representatives, three were employer reps, and Mr Benjamin was the independent chairman.

It's incredibly naive of you to assume it's a one-sided deal.

How do you know the employee reps didn't fight tooth-and-nail to get it to this deal?

How do you know that the employer reps didn't want even more changes, but ultimately had to back down to find a 'compromise'?

The answer is you don't, and neither do I, but I would consider the above more plausible than your 'boo hoo it's all one-sided' rubbish, seeing as almost have the working group were from the employee 'side'

Spartacus

Shock horror

Well I'm absolutely certain I'm not a civil servant!

As a tax payer and citizen of Guernsey, I would like our civil servants and public sector workers to be treated fairly, avoid industrial action, and for the remuneration package they receive to be adequate to attract good competent people on a competitive basis with the private sector.

If the employer reps wanted even more changes then why didn't they go further? If the employer can change what they like then why have a review and seek agreement at all?

Perhaps it is because the workforce would have a genuine grievance in relation to their employee rights. Perhaps it is because Rodney Benjamin believes that chickens will come home to roost in relation to private sector defined contribution schemes. Perhaps in order to change the employee contractual terms compensation will need to be paid.

We didn't see the answers to part one of the terms of reference for the review. I wonder why policy council decided not to publish that.

GM

Call it what you like. If there's not enough money available to pay both salaries and pensions it could be either. Same result though.

Hope this new dictionary is better than the previous one ;)

kevin

Why were 4700 public sector workers kept in the dark about these proposed changes until this story broke?

Would it not have been more sensible to get some feedback from the workforce before entering months of negotiations?

Badly handled as usual.

GM

Kevin

Yes - it doesn't look as though Mr Freestone has represented his members very well at all.

Neil Forman

Kevin

Agreed!

Spartacus

kevin

No one was kept in the dark there has been publicity about this review from the outset and I note you commented on this forum about the pension review back in May.

kevin

Everyone was aware that the review was going to happen but as far as I know no-one received any information as to what might happen until it became public.

In simple terms the negotiations went ahead and to all intents and purposes were signed, sealed and decided without seeking any feedback from the 4700 public sector employees and unsurprisingly most of them are fairly unimpressed.

Spartacus

kevin

I get the impression now is the time for feedback. The proposals have yet to be put to the States. Nothing signed and sealed yet. Good luck, I hope you get a good outcome.

GM

Kevin

But that was the role and responsibility of Ed Freestone! If he was mandated to represent union members and has failed to communicate with them during the process then that's where you should be directing your anger.

Does he understand the word "represent"?

Despite what Spartacus says, I suspect its gone way too far down the line for Mr Freestone to only now start communicating with his members. Rodney Benjamin certainly seems to think so, because as chairman of the all-party group it's clear that he understood Mr Freestone to hold such a mandate.

Spartacus

GM

I must have read a different terms of reference to the one you read.

GM

Spartacus

No - I suspect you read it the same but interpreted it differently.

Paul

Kevin, I would ask for a refund on my union subs if I were you as they have been aware of the review for 12 months or more.

Scarlett

I belonged to a union once.

Negotiation with management time came, and they proved themselves useless, and if anything, worsened the situation.

I contacted my rep, and informed him I was departing the union. 'Why'?,came the question, 'because you're bloody useless' I replied.

He was most indignant, as he'd never been told that before and was therefore under the impression he was doing a damned fine job...

which was strange, as 10 minutes listening to the chat in the canteen on any given day would have confirmed that many of my colleagues shared my view.

Public servant

The pension review was called by the employer and the employees group were invited to join in but advised that it would happen with or without them because the UK had done the same. Whilst it is fair to say that it has been going on for a year, it is also fair to say that the employee rep Ed Freestone blocked all information being given to the employees for fear of the process happening in the media. Ed Freestone had a mandate to attend meetings and represent the interests of approx 7700 working and retired members of the scheme. At no time did Ed Freestone have a mandate to negotiate or make any agreement. Ed Freestone has made a mistake by keeping this process from his members, he has made a mistake making an agreement (albeit not binding) with the employer and he made a mistake when he spoke to the media indicating that he agreed with the proposals and that they would help reduce poverty.

Jimbo

Oh dear. Taxi for Ed Freestone.

So is his "mandate" being withdrawn? Doesn't sound like he has represented those 7700 members very well at all!