At 1pm on Friday, April 5, workers at Wakefield Jobcentre staged a half-day strike. This is part of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union’s ongoing campaign to challenge the current government’s cuts to public services and attacks on civil service pensions.
On the subject of pensions, Mr Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has linked the annual increases to civil service pensions to the Consumer Price Index. In the past these increases had always been linked to the Retail Price Index.
In practical terms this means that whereas formerly civil service pensions had kept track with inflation, now they are going to be a bit behind the rate of inflation, and thus they will lose their value in real terms.
According to figures produced by the Office for National Statistics, the Retail Price Index in February 2013 was 3.2 per cent and this compares with the Consumer Price Index, which was 2.8 per cent, according to the same source.
In addition to reducing the value of our pensions, the government are also imposing an increase in the amount we pay into our pension scheme.
Admittedly these increases to our pension contributions will not affect the lowest paid civil servants earning under £15,000 per year, but everyone else will be paying more.
I currently earn £24,300 per year and I am in the classic civil service pension scheme. I was paying 2.7 per cent of my salary towards my pension, but as from April 1, 2013, I will be paying 3.88 per cent, an increase of 1.18 per cent.
Furthermore, the government has increased the civil service retirement age from 60 to 68.
The PCS union have made repeated assurances to the Cabinet Office that they are willing to negotiate on changes to the Civil Service Pension Scheme, but the terms that the coalition government are currently offering are just not acceptable.
Basically, they want us to pay more, for a lot longer, and end up getting less than what we had before.
Furthermore, the coalition government is also attempting to impose job cuts that will have a seriously detrimental effect on the provision of public services.
The previous Labour government closed Normanton Jobcentre in 2009 and followed this up by closing the benefit centres at Enterprise House in Pontefract and Crown House in Wakefield.
Since they came to power in 2010, the incumbent coalition government has continued this policy of cutting the local provision Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) services in the Wakefield district by closing the disability benefit centre at Bridge House in Castleford in May 2012.
Treasurer of the Wakefield DWP Branch of the PCS Union