Failure on pensions has high price, warns union leader

Embargoed until 00.01 Thursday 19 May 2011

In his speech to delegates at the FDA's annual conference on Thursday morning, Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, will say that senior public servants are paying a high price for politicians' economic failings and underline the heavy cost of failure for both sides in pensions' negotiations.

He will tell delegates:

"Britain has been let down by our entire political class. We need sober and profound debate about turning this country's economy around. I don't think any of us are receptive to lectures from politicians who've developed 20-20 hindsight.

"A price is now being paid by our members,who are a small part of Britain's hard-working middle class. For a representative FDA member the impact of the pay freeze, which also freezes pensionable pay, is equivalent to a pay cut of more than 18% over two years.

"So members have a real and perceived sense of what they are losing, and will continue to lose, over the coming few years."

On public sector pensions, Baume will say:

"In the coming months we will have to make some hard choices.

"We will continue to make the argument that the economy can easily bear the cost of public sector pensions.

"The overwhelming majority of public sector unions want to negotiate first to see if a settlement with the Government is possible. But if a settlement cannot be reached then collective action is likely to be taken in the autumn, and I have little doubt that if action is needed the FDA will also be balloting our members.

"Unions will achieve the best possible deal on pensions by working in concert through the TUC and not by causing division when maximum unity is critical. We are in complex negotiations about serious issues which require a serious and united approach, not gestures.

"The government can impose change. But ministers also know that they will pay a heavy price if they do. Those affected would include everyone from the Jobcentre plus worker in Rotherham to a High Court judge in the Strand. There would inevitably be widespread industrial action, and long-term damage to morale and motivation for millions of key public sector workers, with a potentially significant electoral price to pay in 2015."

He will also pay tribute to the campaign run by the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC) - the part of the FDA representing senior HM Revenue and Customs staff - which, over the past six months, has highlighted the pressing need to close the tax gap.

Notes for editors

1. The FDA is the trade union and professional body representing 18,000 of the UK's senior civil and public servants. Our members include policy advisors, senior managers, tax inspectors, economists, statisticians, accountants, special advisers, government lawyers, diplomats, crown prosecutors and NHS managers.

2. Members in HMRC are represented by the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC), a section of the FDA.

3. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".

4. For further information contact:

  • Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5555 or 07976 951191.
  • Oliver Rowe, Communications Manager, tel: 020 7401 5588 or 07590 838696.