Union anger over local government pension plans

The government has today announced plans to scrap a rule allowing local government workers to retire on a full pension at the age of 60.

It argues that the rule of 85, which applies to employees whose age and years of service add up to 85, breaches European age discrimination legislation.

“The rule of 85 discriminates not only on the grounds of age, but also against women, who are likely to start work for their local government employer later and on a part-time basis,” said local government minister Phil Woolas.

A three-month consultation on amending the rule is due to begin shortly, but unions have already threatened legal action, saying the government and councils “have the law wrong”.

Unison warned it would fiercely oppose any effort scrap the rule, saying the EU law does not come into force until October next year, and arguing that the change would penalise workers who have paid into their pensions schemes for years in good faith.

The announcement comes as pressure grows on ministers to scrap a deal struck with civil servants in October, which allows existing workers to retire on a full pension at the age of 60, although new employees would have to work until 65.

Business leaders said it was “totally unacceptable” for existing employees in the NHS, education system and civil service to retire five years before those working in the private sector.

The argument has gained particular relevance in the wake of the Turner commission report into pensions, which recommended that the state pension age rise to at least 68 by 2050.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “All we have asked for is the same treatment as other public sector workers who have their existing pension rights protected.

“It is a matter of fairness and equality. We have 12 weeks to continue talks and make the government see sense before the order becomes final.”

Today’s announcement comes as part of ongoing discussions about local government pensions schemes. There are fears that a deal on the terms set out by unions could force local authorities to raise council tax.