“SDLP won’t give up the fight on public sector pensions” – Bradley

January 20, 2014

SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Dominic Bradley MLA has expressed serious disappointment that the party’s efforts to protect and fight for fair pension rights for more than 200,000 public sector workers have not been supported by the DUP, UUP and Alliance.

Mr. Bradley was speaking after The Public Service Pension Bill passed its consideration stage in the Assembly after lengthy debate last Tuesday evening.

The bill aims to move pensions to a model based on average earnings with the public sector pension age linked to the state pension age. If implemented, it could affect teachers, civil servants and health, fire and police services employees.

The result of what the assembly has passed so far is that the pension age for public sector workers will be 65 or the state pension age, whichever is greater.

The SDLP tabled a number of amendments to the bill in an attempt to “give the best possible voice to the 210,000 public servants”.

During debate, Mr. Bradley warned the changes could lead to less money circulating in the Northern Ireland economy as retiring civil servants have less financial power, while young workers could face reduced opportunities because more public sector employees are working longer.

Mr. Bradley said: “The SDLP tabled the amendments to the Bill, which we see as another attack on public servants because, largely, the effect of the Bill for public servants will be to pay more, work longer and get less at the end. Retirement may become a thing of the past.”

Mr. Bradley said trade unions had raised concerns regarding the “transparency and fairness” of some of the changes proposed, pointing out the scheme would be controlled by the department of finance, and ultimately the Treasury without recourse to the Assembly. He also warned raising the pension age would have a “significant impact” on the Northern Ireland economy.

Mr Bradley added: “Sadly, our amendments to protect the pension rights of public servants did not receive the necessary support from the DUP, the UUP or the Alliance.  However, the SDLP will be examining the mechanisms available to us in the coming days. We will certainly not be giving up the fight on public sector pensions.”

Judith Cochrane of Alliance said her party colleague, Naomi Long, had voted against the proposals at Westminster, but reiterated that her party would take into account the financial impact of not implementing the reforms – which have been estimated at £250m-300m a year.

The final stages of the bill are due to be completed within the next few weeks.