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RPS Cuts - Have Your Say!

19 October 2015

This circular explains how Network RailÂ’s proposed changes to RPS contributions and benefits could affect members and sets out your options. Pensions can be confusing so please take some time to understand this information and contact your Rep, Pensions Champion or the MembersÂ’ Helpdesk if you need further assistance.

Click here to download our circular:   RPS Cuts - Have Your Say

Your Reps agreed to give members the power to decide whether we accept or reject company pension proposals. Please vote in our online referendum before Monday 2 November!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NR-RPS2015

See Network Rail’s proposals here: http://bit.ly/RPS-August15 (the document includes a model letter for the General Secretary if members vote to accept the proposal).

A victory for members!

Last winter, TSSA members successfully fought off Network Rail’s attempts to cut employer pension contributions and lower benefits for members of the Network Rail Section of the Railways Pension Scheme (RPS). The proposals would have pre-empted Government increases to National Insurance (NI) and powers given to employers cut workers’ pensions due to take effect on 1 April 2016. For details see http://bit.ly/sayHandsOff

Funding tax cuts for millionaires

The Government NI increases, designed to fund tax cuts for millionaires, will hand Network Rail a tax increase of £24 million per year. Previous pension changes required agreement between Network Rail and the Pension Trustee, who are reluctant to agree to changes opposed by Trade Union members. This gave real power to our negotiators to defend members against cuts to benefits. The new Tory legislation allows NR to impose cuts unilaterally, without the consent of Trustees or Union members, to fund additional employer NI costs (“Protected” RPS members, with continuous service since privatisation are exempt).

A stark choice

While £24 million per year is relatively small beer compared with the escalating costs of various programmes, NR are determined to use pension money to cover this tax increase rather than cut elsewhere. Other options, such as increasing retirement age and removing retirement lump sums were considered before making a formal proposal to cap pensionable pay and change long term contribution arrangements.

What do proposed changes to contributions mean for me?

Currently, pension contributions include an additional percentage as a temporary recovery plan that addresses a deficit in the 2010 valuation. Rather than revert to the lower normal contribution rate when this recovery concludes in 2018, the proposal fixes member contributions at the current rate while NR reduce their contributions by an equivalent amount. This would move employer/employee contribution rates from 60:40 to 59:41. Members’ contribution rates would appear unchanged on payslips, the joint contribution rate remains as is but NR would pay a reduced contribution to your pension.

How would the RPI cap affect me?

Currently, any increase in salary up to RPI + 0.5% will be pensionable. The proposal would lower this cap by 0.5% meaning that if a future salary increase was above RPI, the additional amount would be ignored for pension contribution and benefit purposes. For examples of how the cap could affect your pension in the long term, see our previous circular: http://bit.ly/sayHandsOff

Members would see no immediate impact if salary reviews did not exceed RPI e.g. Bands 5-8 and equivalent and Controller Grades will receive an RPI increase in January 2016. The proposal commits to reviewing pay capping and benefits at future valuations. We expect to start discussing the 2016 triennial valuation before concluding pay talks for 2017. We have an opportunity to negotiate an increase in the pensionable pay cap as part of the valuation discussions if we agree an increase in salary above RPI.

What can I do?

You must use your vote to have a say! If the majority of members vote for the proposals, we will accept these as described above. However, your Reps are asking you to reject only if you are prepared to take part in strike action against the company as nothing else is likely to change NR’s mind!

NR have threatened to use Chancellor George Osborne’s statutory override to take £24 million per year from these members without union agreement, consulting members or involving Trustees to increase the normal retirement age to up to 67 from April next year and cap pensionable pay at RPI. Strike action would be members’ only defence against the statutory override. Rejecting the proposals without taking action to defend members’ pensions could be worse for members than accepting the proposals.

Get involved!

Members who want to get more involved in your union can find further information in the survey. Please indicate if you are willing to help your colleagues. If you are not in a union yet, you can take part in the survey and find out how to join. Once you join, your vote will count.

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