Defend Ill-Health Pensions

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sun, 06/24/2007 - 10:32

Make no mistake - the threat to dilute your right to an ill-health pension is a serious one.

At the moment, if you become too unwell to continue in your current job, your employment can be terminated on medical grounds and you will get a 10-year enhancement on your pension and no reduction for early retirement.

Quite right too - especially in an industry like ours where decades of shift work can wreck your health. It could happen to you or any of your workmates - arthritis, deteriorating vision, heart problems, blood pressure, injury, whatever. Poor health causes great difficulties for people - our current pension arrangements mean that there is one less thing to worry about when you are sick with anxiety about your job, your family, your lifestyle, your future.

Not if management get their way, though. They want the enhanced pension rule to apply only if you are unfit to do not just your own job but any other job. So you can't walk any more? You could work in a call centre then, couldn't you?! You can't go on the track any more so you can't be a protection master or a technician or a driver or station supervisor? Never mind - sell tickets instead. Worse pay, different work, different location - and no enhanced pension.

The unions should be up in arms about this. Tubeworker has heard nothing from TSSA or ASLEF (please enlighten us if we've missed something), but RMT has rightly declared its intention to move towards industrial action. But Tubeworker sees a couple of problems with its approach so far that it needs to overcome.

Firstly, as we have commented previously, a lot of the union's material about pensions - particularly the Official Circulars, less so the recent Regional Council leaflet - are hard to understand and full of jargon and unnecessary technical detail. Secondly, the union has dumped the dispute over the Rule Books and been very slow out of the blocks over the ticket office closures - both issues on which members want to fight the employer. The officer leading the pensions issue (Assistant General Secretary Pat Sikorski) is largely responsible for the Rule Books fiasco, so has lost credibility with rank-and-file activists. It is as though he wanted to clear the decks of all other business in order to make space for the pensions fight.

Both top officials and local officials need to recognise that what counts is what affects the ordinary members. There are no campaigns that 'belong' to one person and therefore should or shouldn't be supported on that basis. We need a fight on pensions and on the ticket office closures and on the rule books. It can be problematic having to fight over several issues at once, but if management are attacking us on several fronts then we have no choice.

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