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With reference to my circulars of 12th October, and 21st December 2006, developments have occurred in regard to the Transport for London Pension Fund and also pension provision for other LT workers. Endeavours have been made to resolve matters through the Pensions Working Group, but satisfactory progress has not been achieved owing to management's failure to enter into meaningful consultation or negotiations.
TfL is still pursuing its intention to amend Guidelines used by the Fund Office to review ill-health pensions. Management continue to claim that change is necessary because the Guidelines do not coincide with scheme Rules. RMT has argued that the Guidelines reflect conditions of service agreements and pointed out that Rule amendments since the Hatt Judgment have inadvertently distorted the situation. Our view is quite simple: the Rules should be changed to reflect actual practice whereby an ill health pension should be granted to an employee who is not fit to perform their own job, rather than being unfit to do any job. Management has completely ignored our proposal of the abolition of Rule 19(5); the Rule which allows Trustees to vary or stop ill-health pensions.
The Trustee Board has referred the issue to its Operations Committee to provide a recommendation. The next Trustee Board meeting is to be held on 21st March but the Operations Committee is to be held immediately prior to that meeting and I am extremely concerned management are using this situation to make a final recommendation which has not been considered by the Unions at the Pensions Joint Working Group.
I have written to TfL expressing deep concern that they are endeavouring to pursue changes to terms and conditions of employment and pension fund benefits through the Trustee Board regardless of whether these are acceptable to employees or their representatives. At my insistence a further meeting of the PWG is to be held prior to the next Trustee Board, however, the meeting will be held on 12th March and therefore prior to the Operations Committee's deliberations.
TfL is continuing with its proposal for an Independent Chair of the Trustee Board despite the strong objections of the Union's nominee, Assistant General Secretary, Pat Sikorski, of the implications for disturbing the 50:50 balance of power between the employers and members' representatives. Management's proposals represent a fundamental alteration to the governance of the Fund, established by the High Court under Hatt v LRTPF, as the employer would be able exercise much greater control over the Fund. Assistant General Secretary, Pat Sikorski has managed to persuade the Trustees to obtain Counsel's views and a formal Opinion is awaited, but there is concern that TfL intends pressing for a decision at the next Trustee Board meeting.
Again, I have complained to TfL about their attempts to make fundamental changes to the pension fund benefits through the Trustee Board, but this has fallen on deaf ears.
My attention has been drawn recently to a small group of staff transferred approximately two years ago from Metronet to Dalkia under the TUPE arrangements. It seems these individuals are having difficulty continuing in membership of the TfLPF and to date have not been able to contribute to any pension. This matter has also been listed for the next JWG meeting.
As part of last year's pay discussions at ACAS, it was agreed Metronet would obtain an independent review of pension provision by Metronet compared to industry practice. The report concludes that the scheme offers a very complete package of benefits and contains several features which are at the upper quartile of the market. While that may be the case, the fact is that members of the Metronet DC scheme would not retire on a known percentage of their final salary and are therefore at risk of being in financial difficulties during their latter years.
This situation does not meet our demands of reopening the TfLPF for all Metronet employees. The same problem applies, of course, to the members of the Tubelines Section of the Fund.
Notwithstanding the above, I have recently become aware that a few new recruits have been granted entry to the TfL fund. To my knowledge the individuals concerned are not 'protected employees' transferred from other Underground work but are in fact new recruits to Metronet or Tubelines. Enquiries are being made to ascertain the circumstances involved, but I am sure members will be extremely angry if a two-tier system is being operated whereby certain new recruits are permitted TfLPF entry but others are not.
A full report on the above matters was considered by the General Grades Committee last week and as a result I have been instructed to write to all employers concerned advising that we will be in dispute with them unless they comply with our demands at either the forthcoming Pensions Working Group or by 16th March, whichever is earlier.
Members will be kept advised of developments.