Warning To BT Over It’s Forthcoming Pensions Review

A stark warning has been issued to BT by the CWU stating it is resolute in its determination to defend members’ pensions in the wake of the company’s unwelcome but widely anticipated decision to trigger a review of the BT Pension Scheme (BTPS).

Tens of thousands of BTPS members across the country have were formally notified of the forthcoming review last week (20th July).

Pic: Cover of BTPS Review document - click to downloadSince the announcement of the review earlier this year, the CWU has been in talks with BT about the future of the BT Pension Scheme (BTPS).

In the talks BT has set out what it believes is the case for making changes and has issued documentation which summarises the Company view.

BT is seeking agreement with the CWU over possible changes but it is important to emphasise that nothing has been agreed,and nothing has been ruled in or ruled out.

This means that BT has not ruled out closing the Scheme for future service.

At a specially convened CWU branch forum on Wednesday of last week, during which the comapony presented its rationale for the review, Branch reps left the company in no doubt as to their anger and dismay at the move – reinforcing the warnings already issued by national negotiators that any unilateral attempt to close the scheme to future service accrual will be opposed “by all means including industrial action.”

They also signalled branches’ unequivocal determination that the forthcoming talks on the future of the BTPS must run parallel to negotiations in support of the union’s outstanding claim for significant improvements to the BTRSS – the money-purchase pension scheme that has always been the poor relation to the defined benefit BTPS which closed its doors to new members in 2001.

Clearly, this is a very serious situation and the Union has made it very clear to BT how important pensions are to our members.

The CWU view remains as follows.

  • The CWU opposes any move to close the BTPS for existing members. We will use all means up to and including industrial action to keep the Scheme open for current members.
  • BT needs to improve the BT Retirement Saving Scheme, which now includes just over 50% of the UK workforce.

CWU national negotiators are resolute in the Union’s demands for:

  • A significant increase in BT contribution levels to the BTRSS, with the company doubling member contributions instead of only marginally more than matching them, as BT does at present
  • An increase in the minimum underpinning payment of £1,500 per annum that BT currently makes for the lowest paid BTRSS members – on the basis that the level of underpinning has remained the same since 2010, meaning that now only those earning less than £18,750 receive the top-up
  • BT to take on the administration costs of the scheme, rather than passing them on to members
  • A significant improvement to medical retirement benefits
  • Allowances such as London Weighting, shift allowance and unsocial hours payments to be made pensionable, – something which isn’t the case at present.

CWU Deputy General Secretary Andy Kerr, expressed the Union’s stance and opinion on the review by BT, when speaking at the Branch Forum meeting in London last week:

“While this review is clearly unwelcome and unsettling for BTPS members, it’s incumbent on the CWU to enter constructive discussions with the company, because ultimately it’s crucial we ensure the long-term sustainability of our members’ pensions.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact, however, that this review does present an opportunity for the CWU to seek to address the significant shortcomings of the BTRSS – of which around half of BT’s current UK workforce are members."

He continued onto the BTPS:

“Regarding the BTPS, the company has placed a number of options on the table. These range from the wholly unacceptable closure of the BTPS to future accrual, with in-service members switching to the BTRSS – all the way through to potential adjustments that could be made to the 2008 agreement, which can be modified by mutual consent.”

Andy concluded:

“The company has been left in no doubt that the CWU is serious about using industrial action, if necessary, to keep the BTPS open for current members – and, encouragingly, BT has stressed it is seeking to establish an agreed way forward.”

You can download and read BT’s position on it’s review of the BTPS by clicking on the cover pic above.

Source: CWU HQ website / LTB413/17

Posted: 1st January 2017

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