Government number crunchers rule against pension privatisation

by - 27th January 2012, 15.23 BST

Five hundred staff at the Audit Commission begin a work to rule next week over pensions in the first ever industrial action at the financial watchdog

The staff, who are members of Prospect, are fighting a refusal by senior management to protect their pensions when they are transferred to the private sector.

The government intends to transfer the bulk of the commission’s £200bn workload to the private sector from April next year.  Prospect had called for management to apply Cabinet Office rules designed to safeguard the pension rights of public sector workers, which the Board has so far refused to do.

After three weeks of discussions with the Commission aimed at removing the threat of industrial action, the Audit Commission branch of Prospect has rejected a new management offer. This would have temporarily deferred an upcoming pensions contribution increase and covered the costs of staff forced to return company cars early because of the transfer.

As a result the action short of a strike, which Prospect had suspended as a token of goodwill while negotiations continued, will now begin at midnight on Monday (30th January), at the Commission’s headquarters in London and regional offices in Bolton, Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, Gateshead, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln and Solihull.

Prospect says the action will have an impact on the Commission’s ability to deliver end of year audits in the NHS, local authorities and other public bodies.

Prospect negotiator Richard Hardy, said: “We are disappointed that the Commission was unable to table an offer that would meet our members’ aspirations. As a result, our members will now take industrial action for the first time in their history.”