by Mark Chillingworth

Now is the wrong time for a pension reform debate

Jun 30, 20113 mins
IT Leadership

Yesterday’s strike by public sector workerswho are concerned about their pension provision is a debate that we should not be having right now and is an example of how Ministers, MPs and trade unions have failed their members and the nation. The public sector remains a major IT employer and has been one of the largest users and investors for at least the last decade and when today’s workforce retires there will be plenty of IT staff relying on some form of public sector pension. As the Greek economy teeters on the edge of collapse and rumours of the Spanish economy facing further trouble continue, the focus in Great Britain should be on rebuilding the economy from its over reliance on financial services and the credit crisis that led to the deficit that Britain now has. This is not the time to debate the set up the pensions system within the public sector. For at least a decade all organisations have known that life expectancy is increasing and that the existing pension plans will not cope with the added strain. As we have already ascertained, life expectancy is increasing, which means the burden of getting pension reform right is critical as errors caused now will only cost the state more in the long run. Pension reform in the public sector needs to be addressed as part of an overall need for the public sector and taxation to be reformed. What angers me most is that this debate and reform agenda should have been had a number of years ago. The previous administrations could have blazed a reforming trail during better economic times when they had the luxury of being able to look at the big long-term picture. My concern is that pension reform will be a rushed bodge like akin to the replacement to the ill-fated poll tax. It is not only the parties in Westminster that have let down public sector IT workers; the trade unions should have put the weight of their lobby skills behind modernisation of the pension process in the public sector some time ago. They have not put the long term interests of their members first in my opinion. There is a glimmer of hope, as Steve Richards a columnist with The Independent wrote yesterday; there is a movement amongst some politicians to look at the way worker representation exists in Germany and to replicate those lessons in Great Britain.