Yeah I've been a member of the group since the early days and must admit, I didn't think it would take off (as much as I wanted it to)... but I've been proven wrong.
I've sent my questionnaire back and also contributed a tenner, still alot of apathy among my colleagues. I like many was also staggered by Ian Pointon's comments but here is a brilliantly written response from Lee Broadbent a GMP officer and co founder of the Police Pensions group.... have a read and ponder for a moment, the more of us, the stronger we are...
Many have asked for our reply in relation to Ian Pointon, Kent fed chair post and now Steve White national chairman thoughts. I've been in nights all week so apologies for the delay and sorry about the length. ............................................................. I recently posted a comment in reply on Ian Pointon's posts regarding his opinion on our pension challenge. Ian is the Kent federation chairman, who took a similar view to Mr White, maybe less articulate and with less emphasis on the 'I do care, I really really do care honestly....but' avenue Mr White seems so keen to promote. To an extent, what both chairmen say has a degree of truth, yet it is heavily tainted by the authors opinion on what he feels is the right course of action, and due to this it is littered with cautionary tales, scaremongering and future finger pointing. This has become a recognised federation tactic, the other being to push the benefits of their insurance products and remind you of what they do if you ever find yourself in the brown sticky stuff. Both are right in pointing out that the government wants more for less and In setting out its stall, it has designed a very unpopular pension reform package. Given the huge emphasis on the need for austerity, public fear surrounding a further economic crash and false tales of gold plated pensions, an opportunity arose to force this reform upon millions of public sector workers. As Winston Churchill once once quoted; 'never let a good crisis go to waste.' In designing and implementing the scheme the government has clearly breached the equalities act by directly discriminating against people on the grounds of age. The 1987 and 2006 pensions do not discriminate on age. Officers generally retire with 30 or 35 years (dependant on scheme) pensionable service, regardless of age. The new CARE pension does not discriminate on age for new joiners to the service, however it does discriminate against those of us who have been forcibly moved into it. By way of explanation, a younger recruit joining today will have to work longer than an older recruit to reach pensionable age 60, but by giving more service, they accrue a larger pension pot and are financially better off. In the same example I have used above, if I joined the police service today at aged 19 years and 6 months, and the other officer joined today aged 30, I would have to work 10 years and 6 months longer than that officer before I can draw a full police pension. However in return, I would receive a significantly enhanced pension. Currently due to being forced into the new care scheme I am faced with working all those extra years, paying tens of thousands of pounds more in contributions, and receiving tens of thousands of pounds less in pension payments. This indicates the transitional arrangements unfairly discriminate against younger officers by failing to mirror the principles of either the old or new pension scheme. It is widely accepted that whilst age is a protected characteristic, the government can discriminate so long as it can prove the discrimination was for a legitimate aim. It's worth noting that 'cost' can not be the sole reason for a legitimate aim and before discrimination takes place, all other options should be explored to either remove or reduce the discrimination. In an attempt to mitigate the full impact of the discrimination on older officers the government implemented the tapering system and chose to protect a small proportion of older officers, leaving a larger body of younger officers exposed to further discrimination and financial loss as a result. In addition to this it transpires that female officers and BME officers may have suffered further indirect discrimination and have thus been further disadvantaged by the reforms. Of the 126,818 currently serving police officers 84,941 are either not protected or on tapering protection. That's 67% of all police officers. Now the legal debate is clear; have the government proven they have a legitimate aim which quantifies this level of discrimination? As we can see, opinions and 'legal advice' are clearly split in this very emotive subject. It is our aim to prove that the government has failed in its obligation to act within the framework of the equalities act and we intend to offer supportive evidence to quantify this belief in open court, where such an argument should take place. Now let's say with the odds against us, we obtain a win, the government have a number of options available. One such option would be to remove the tapering protection given thus placing all officers on the same standing. It's not however as clear cut as Ian or Steve make out. In order to remove the protections, the government would have to amend the Act and thus legislate accordingly, including passing the bill in parliament. All this takes time and whilst it happens what do you do with those officers who have been discriminated against? They can't remain in a scheme which continues to discriminate as that would be unlawful, so you put them back into the schemes from which they came. Let's say this court case takes between 5-7 years as predicted, (based primarily on the fact the government believe they are right and just in their approach so will not roll over to our challenge) due to appeals etc. It then takes a further year or so to redraft the pensions act check its wording and consult with interested parties etc. those who were previously protected are now all retired on full pension, those who were discriminated against have earned extra years in a better pension and thus increased better protected rights as a result. In the mean time, another election has taken place and who knows how that will go given that thousands of public sector workers are locked into a potentially damming legal argument with a prospective government. In an ideal world that would be the end of the matter, however it's likely that once a new scheme is redrafted, it may well be forced back upon us, the difference being we would have gained a greater amount of pensionable earnings in our previous schemes thus are financially better off and equally as important, a backbone and voice to further challenge. In short no one can predict what may and may not happen. it is also wholly wrong to offer such one sided opinion on the subject, especially when in the same breath you ask officers to carefully decide on whether they should sign up to take action. It's equally abhorrent as upholders of the law to suggest that we should accept being discriminated against because whilst we suffer others don't.
The other point that I will make is this; We as a group have never apportioned blame for this upon the federation. We fully acknowledge that this was the governments doing and the blame lies squarely in their shoulders. The federation, by its own admission, got things wrong and as openly stated at conference, lessons need to be learned going forward. It is up to individual members to hold the federation to account and ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated, and yet Ian and Steve's opinions tell me that the lessons have not yet sunk in. If people are angry and frustrated I would suggest that it's not because they blame you for the attack on their pension, but rather they blame you for not reacting to what is quite clearly a large proportion of your membership asking for you to listen and act on their behalf. The scaremongering and doom spreading is a tactic that most officers attach to many elected representatives of the federation. At a time when the federation are promoting change, it has stepped back into its comfortable slippers and has started to spout the same old rhetoric. The federation needs to be very careful going forward as a divide between the organisation and its members would be a utter disaster and would play straight into the hands of the Home Secretary. The last thing all officers need is a representative body without a voice or mandate as this would pave the way for deeper and more painful reform a plight that I and my colleagues are acuity aware of. It's for this very reason that our group have constantly sought to work with the federation and provide unity in disagreement, however opinions such as Mr White who sits in the very privileged position of chairman, will only seek to promote distrust and further widen the separation we are trying to prevent. I sincerely hope that in going forward we can unite whilst in disagreement and at the same time promote and encourage the building of a federation that works in the best interests of all its members. If this can be done with the current national leads then great, but if not, then I would suggest the organisation considers a reshuffle as a considerable body of its members are asking for a different approach and will not be ignored.