Move by public sector staff to combat reform of pensions

Junior doctors on the picket line
Junior doctors on the picket line

In the public sector we have civil servants earning on average £210,000 a year and soon they are going to be asking for pay rises of something like £45,000 a year. I’m not making this up.

They are making these demands as compensation for changes to pension tax rules coming in April.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

The rules are being introduced on workers earning from £150,000 (it also includes doctors, police officers and head teachers) to make them pay more tax on their pension contributions by reducing the annual limit for tax relief from £40,000 to £10,000 on a sliding scale.

Some of these well paid public servants will already have amassed pension funds of £1 million and more. The government wants to see a lifetime pension limit of £1 million for such workers.

Such staff have savvy union representatives who are already in talks with the Treasury to get round what they regard as an assault on their future financial health. What the union representatives have come up with, no doubt in agreement with their members, is that the workers should be allowed to “swap heavily taxed pension contributions for equivalent pay rises which would attract less tax.’’

A public sector worker earning £150,000 could, if this is agreed to, see his salary boosted by nearly £19,000. The practice already exists for certain staff who have been able to exchange pension contributions for free first class flights and accommodation and chauffeur driven cars.

Without doubt this government is not short of money to pay its most senior workers while those on the bottom rung of the pay scale earn a pittance by comparison.

All this was revealed in a week when junior doctors went out on strike with a more serious strike to be held next month. We have hospital consultants earning huge six figure salaries (they are not involved in the current dispute) which is a measure of how far a junior doctor could get up the salary scale eventually.

Junior doctors earn upwards of £30,000 a year. They work long hours and hold huge responsibilities and some would say they aren’t paid enough. It has to be remembered though that some of them will become GPs in their early 30s with a six figure salary to go with it thanks to the GP contracts wheedled out of the last Labour government.

Today, we all know how hard it is to get a GP appointment much less an appointment to see a consultant. All sorts of factors are involved but the general consensus is that in the National Health Service, those who pay for it – we taxpayers – are not getting the deal we should expect.

As far as highly paid police and head teachers are concerned, we all know about failing schools and how difficult it is to get a policeman out to investigate a burglary for example.

It can be a nightmare to access Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for information yet its boss Dame Lin Homer is leaving the service with a £2.2million pension pot after 36 years in the public sector. Not having reached pension age she is expected to take a job in the private sector.

At the last election the public voted for the Tory policy of cuts in the public sector including to welfare benefits. So what right does the doctors in particular think they have to strike because they believe they are overworked and underpaid?

Of course they work hard but who doesn’t these days and I include those who don’t earn even half of what a junior doctor receives? Even journalists work long, unsociable hours for no extra money because they love the job. It’s not a pretty sight to see doctors shouting slogans and abuse from picket lines. They have a God given talent and should respect that.