“The Tory minister ruthlessly slashing the pensions of millions of public sector workers could be in line to pocket a £731,000 retirement pot,” reports the Daily Mirror. “Francis Maude, 58, is among a number of Government ministers amassing vast, taxpayer-funded nest eggs. But while the millionaire can look forward to a potential £43,000-plus a year income in his old age, he is cutting schemes for nurses, teachers and public sector workers.
The shocking sum is almost eight times the average £5,600 civil service employee’s pot. Union chiefs yesterday branded Cabinet Office Minister Mr Maude and his well-to-do colleagues shameless hypocrites. Len McCluskey, of Unite, which calculated the figures, said: “A typical public sector worker would have to work almost three lifetimes to get a pension like many of the ministers who are attacking our public services.
“Unite supports good pensions for all workers including MPs. What we don’t support is a cabinet of millionaires attacking the pensions of the men and women who care for our sick, teach our children and keep our streets safe. It’s another example of how out of touch the Government is.” Mark Serwotka, of the civil service PCS union, added: “They’ll be completely untouched by their cuts.”
MPs can grow their pension pot by up to one 40th of their final salary – currently £65,738 – each year in return for putting in 11.9% of their wage packet. Senior ministers, who earn more, can also pay in at the same rate and receive one 40th of their total frontbench earnings on top of their Parliamentary pension.
Strikes by millions of public sector workers over reform of their pensions will bolster support for the Government’s austerity drive, senior cabinet sources have claimed.
No 10 is said to be “delighted” at the prospect of walkouts on 30th November despite a more generous offer being made to union leaders last week. Liberal Democrat and Conservative ministers privately believe their argument will be strengthened by public anger at disruption by state workers who will still have more generous retirement funds than most in the private sector.
“Militancy could be good for the coalition in the longer term,” said a very senior Lib Dem minister. “It will be troublesome immediately, but the public is not with the unions. In the current economic circumstances, it will be difficult for the unions to gain public support for their case. We are confident that we can win the argument, and strikes will only damage the unions.” A Conservative minister added: “It is clear No 10 is delighted that the unions have fallen into their trap.”
Last week the Government unveiled a new offer as the “best we are going to get” in terms of money, which included future schemes being based on a pension to the value of 1/60th of average salary accruing for each year worked rather than 1/65th. No one less than ten years off retirement will see changes to the date they can draw their pension or the amount they receive. If a deal can be struck, no further changes would be made for twenty-five years.
The unions immediately said the offer was not good enough to call off strikes that will hit public services including schools, courts, hospitals and councils. Ministers are gambling that the public will not side with strikers. The talks have been led from the Government side by Francis Maude, the Tory Cabinet Office minister, and Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury. “We want agreement and to be able to finalise details of the plans by the end of the year,” said a source close to the talks. “The ball is now in the unions’ court.”