Members urged to reject BT pension proposals as formal consultation begins
Telecoms & Financial Services, BT, BT Facilities Services LtdNovember 14 2017
BT’s proposals to radically change pension provision across the company have been branded a “slap in the face to loyal employees” by the CWU, which is urging members to deliver an outright rejection of the plans in a formal consultation that has been announced today (Tuesday).
With both BTPS and BTRSS members affected by different proposals which the union believes totally fail to grasp the importance hard-working employees place on decent pension provision in retirement, members are being urged to say ‘no’ to all of BT’s proposals for both schemes. The BT Pension Scheme is the company defined benefit pension and the BT Retirement Saving Scheme is the defined contribution pension that has been in place since 2001.
Amid profound CWU disappointment that the company has decided to press ahead with a formal 60-day consultation while negotiations are still underway, the union is convinced that only an overwhelming expression of employee anger at the company’s current proposals will provide the impetus required for a meaningful company rethink – without which a major industrial relations showdown looks inevitable. The Union’s detailed response can be read here.
BTPS Unacceptable Options
As things stand BT is persisting with two alternative proposals for the BTPS, which have already been categorically rejected by both the CWU’s national negotiating team, and the Executive.
Option 1 involves the closure of the BTPS for future service accrual from April 1 next year – something the union has consistently warned would automatically trigger an automatic industrial action ballot.
Option 2, which has been tabled by the company in response to the CWU’s absolute rejection of the BTPS’s closure – involves a raft of negative changes to the scheme that are so profound that they would make the BTPS virtually unrecognisable.
Member contributions are proposed to increase by up to 3 per cent of salary and the removal of the current National Insurance rebate would cost members another 1 per cent of salary. Taken in conjunction with a triple whammy of significantly reduced benefit build up rates, the scrapping of the specific additional lump sum for service after April 2018 and permanent highly detrimental caps on both pensionable pay increases and future increases for pensions in payment, Option 2 would mean in practice that BTPS members would have to pay a whole load more for considerably less.
Deputy General Secretary Andy Kerr commented “BT is hoping that faced with the option of closure members will accept these radical changes and embrace significant cuts in their future pension. At the same time BT’s estimated level of contributions for future service from 1st April 2018 would only marginally increase. There is no way this is acceptable or fair”
The CWU has always believed that BT should pay more into the BTRSS. While BT’s current proposals offer a 1 per cent increase in company pension levels, the CWU is adamant this falls well short of what is required, representing only around a £4 per week increase in company contributions for those joining BT . Similarly, while the company has finally accepted longstanding CWU arguments that London Weighting should count towards BTRSS pensions, other allowances, notably shift pay and unsocial hours payments, which have always been pensionable in the BTPS, are excluded – which the union believes is simply not fair.
Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr explains: “The pretty marginal improvements BT is proposing to make to the BTRSS simply don’t go far enough to provide for a decent retirement at 60 or 65, and I’d urge all BTRSS members to see through the company’s positive spin and stand firm for what they deserve.
“We’ll never get a better opportunity to secure the sort of changes to the BTRSS that are needed – and the reasonableness of the CWU’s claim for a BTRSS that genuinely delivers for members is reflected in the fact that our claim for company contribution levels to be pitched at twice those of employees would only cost the company about 0.2 per cent of BT profit.”
United front essential
Urging ALL members to make the time to read and digest the company’s detailed consultation document and then to vociferously reject BOTH the BTPS and BTRSS proposals, Andy stresses: “The simple truth is that CWU members in both schemes deserve better and it’s self-evident that BT can afford more – despite its protestations – given that it made £7,500m last year and paid out more than £1,000m in dividends.
“BT’s current proposals for both the BTPS and BTRSS are nothing less than a slap in the face for loyal employees and must be challenged with a totally united front.
“BT talks about ‘fairness’, but some senior management get a contribution to their pensions of up to 30 per cent of salary – far in excess of any CWU member – further highlighting the total inadequacy of its paltry offering to BTRSS members and the unacceptability of the massive changes suggested for BTPS members.
“While the CWU accepts that there is a case for some change with regards to defined benefit pensions – and the union is utterly committed to reaching a negotiated settlement that addresses the challenge of rising costs to the company, particularly with regards to future service accrual, -we won’t be fobbed off by proposals which represent the short-changing of ALL of our members.”
Andy concludes: “I’m absolutely convinced that once CWU members have had the chance to digest what BT’s current proposals for both schemes would actually mean for them in practice they will see the company’s positive spin for exactly what it is.
“It’s crucial, however that everyone affected uses the consultation to make sure BT is left in no doubt whatsoever that employees DO care about their pensions and the extent to which feelings are running high on this issue.
“Responses to the consultation can be as long or short as individuals want to make them – but as many people as possible right across the company need to tell BT in no uncertain terms what they think about its current pension proposals – and if that’s in a blunt one-liner that’s perfectly okay.
“What’s most important is that senior management emerges from this consultation under no illusion as to the level of anger we know is out there, because that will present the company with a very stark choice between listening sensibly to what its workforce is saying and reopening meaningful discussions with the union – or riding roughshod over loyal employees with all the risks that carries.”
Over the coming weeks BT will be holding a series of regional meetings to outline its proposals to employees, and the CWU is urging both BTPS and BTRSS members to use the opportunity to ask probing questions about what the changes really mean in practice and to voice their opinions accordingly.
CWU branches are also in the process of organising a host of special members’ meetings across the country, all of which will be attended by Executive speakers. Attendance is strongly recommended.
More information is available from your local branch and on www.cwu.org/campaign/bt-pensions
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Reject all BT’s proposals – hashtag #TellBTNo