Superannuation Bill

Memorandum submitted by Garry Robinson (SU 25)

Summary

I believe that the proposals contained within this Bill are unlawful and discriminatory. The impact of the proposals will be felt most acutely by those members of staff in the 50 to 60 age category. This group is, therefore, subject to Age Discrimination. I believe my employer (the Government) will be in breach of contract if the terms of my redundancy payment are changed without prior agreement. No other employer is able to change legislation to suit what it is trying to achieve – in this case the closure of the Government Office network. The decision to do this was taken several months ago and therefore redundancy should be on the basis of the scheme which was in existence at that time.

1. I am 51 years old and a member of staff at Government Office North East which is subject to closure and facing a significant risk of compulsory redundancy. I have been a civil servant for 30 years. I am a Senior Executive Officer and currently work on both the DfE and DWP agenda. My main role for several years has been managing a national training programme for disabled adults. In my early career I worked within the Unemployment Benefit Service and have first hand experience of the consequences of unemployment. Throughout my employment as a civil servant I have paid into the PCS Compensation scheme.

2. You will be aware the current status of the Government Office Network is to be "abolished in principle". Formalities of being formally abolished won’t be known until after the Spending Review, which in line with proposals to implement the Superannuation Bill pose serious implications for GO staff both in terms of career prospects and redundancy entitlements.

3. In addition, the current economic and employment position in the region and the North East's heavy dependency on the public sector, finding alternative employment will be very difficult. Government Office North East citizens have less likelihood of being redeployed to other Government departments in the region, who themselves are facing cut backs and redundancies.

4. More importantly, and a key issue for me with regards to the Superannuation Bill, is in real terms if the Bill is endorsed and put into place, the terms that underpin it will remove all accrued rights to those staff in the PCS compensation scheme (i.e. redundancy payments and pension rights) for any individual particularly over the age of 40 through no fault of our own.

5. With regards my own redundancy and pension rights, I wish to draw to your attention to the fact that these are clearly stated in the Pension Choices, Understanding your Choices 2002 (document attached) when the pension scheme changed and individuals were required to opt for their pension scheme type. Page 38 states the entitlements that individuals "will" receive in the event of a redundancy situation. This is the basis on which I made my decision on the choice of scheme in 2002. At no point then or subsequently was I advised that the scheme would be changed by legislation in the future. If this is now to be the case then I have been misled and misguided by my employer.

6. For me, being over 50 years old, the implications of the Superannuation Bill and proposed redundancy cap will result in a reduction of two thirds of my existing entitlement and immediate payment of my pension . This leaves me with serious financial implications for my family through no fault of my own . Unless I find alternative employment immediately, which is highly unlikely given the prevailing economic situation, I will be faced with 2 choices. Either sell my home or let it be repossessed by my mortgage lender. The level of the proposed pay off will be insufficient to pay my mortgage off and I will be unable to meet my monthly payments from any potential benefits I may receive. My wife is in a low paid job in the public sector and her own future is uncertain. I also have 2 children in higher education who I am struggling to support.

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7. The imposition of the proposed Superannuation Bill would remove long standing rights and effectively make the terms inequitable for people who have been allowed to leave under redundancy terms prior to and potentially after the term of the Bill. Again this is discriminatory.

September 2010