UK

Public sector pension rises: Case studies

Pensions protest
Image caption The changes prompted a strike and a London march on 30 June

NHS workers, teachers and civil servants are being told how much extra they will be paying in pension contributions from April next year.

The government's proposals affect 2.5 million workers and have met with stiff opposition from some, who have staged industrial action.

The changes relate to NHS workers and teachers in England and Wales, and civil servants in England, Scotland and Wales.

Some public service employees have been telling the BBC how the changes to the public sector pensions will affect them.

Kim Barnes, 48, teacher, from Reading

Ms Barnes, who has two daughters, been told that she could have to contribute up to £100 extra each month.

"We are just scapegoats to pay towards the deficit," she says.

"My predicted pension after 30-plus years of teaching is less than £10,000 and I pay in £200-plus each month.

"I'm beginning to wish I'd never bothered and I'm considering pulling out if they want another £100 per month.

"I can't afford to do it without taking on another job. Me and my husband, who is also a public sector worker, are taking in foreign students to get a bit of extra money.

"When I became a teacher I didn't expect to be living in poverty."

John Newman, 64, teacher, from Chichester

Mr Newman is retired but says his pension will be affected by any changes. His two children are also teachers and he believes they will be heavily affected.

"The fundamental weakness in the government's analysis, certainly as regards teachers, is that it is not based on the triennial review of the teachers' pension fund," he says.

"In the 2006 agreement it was accepted that, should a triennial review demonstrate that the fund required further contribution increases, they would, in the case of teachers, come from employees.

"There is a big difference between the small increases that a triennial review might lead to and the swingeing increases he (Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury) is proposing.

"If the government is so sure of its case, why does it not hold a triennial review, or, if it has already, as required, held this review, publish it?

"What is happening is that public servants are being in effect required to accept a massive tax increase that arises because of the sins of others - and one wonders why public service workers across the range of services are so upset and feel so aggrieved?"

Anne Carter, 57, teacher, from Essex

Ms Carter teaches adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. The teacher, who has two children, is divorced and says this makes her pension even more crucial.

"With no pay rise for four years, I am finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet," she says.

"The increase will make meeting my bill payments even more difficult.

"I also resent the pensionable age being increased so late in my career, giving me so little time to make financial adjustments.

"Also, I am really concerned about providing high quality lessons in my mid-60s, when stamina will be lower."

Robert Barton, social worker, from Wiltshire

Mr Barton, who has worked in his field for 10 years since he was made redundant from the building industry, says he is beginning to question whether to stay in his profession.

"Our contributions to pensions changed about two years ago," he says.

"If my contributions go up again that leaves me with less money which will effectively mean a pay cut.

"Gold-plated pensions? There might be some in the higher levels of management but at my level I will be lucky to get tin-plated. It does make me question if I would stay in the profession or look for alternatives. I know people who have already left.

"All I can see happening is that services will lose skilled workers to other industries and the quality of the services will diminish to the point where people with little choice will have less and the waiting lists for services will grow. A sad state of affairs."

Dr Alan Thomson, 43, anaesthetist from Aberdeen

Dr Thomson has real concerns about the wider implication of cuts on the goodwill of NHS staff.

"Whether you call this an increased contribution, a tax or whatever, combined with the continuing pay freeze it is simply a significant pay cut across the board for front-line clinical staff throughout the NHS, and at a time when inflation is reducing the value of the pay we already get," he says.

"As part of my job I also run a medical education programme for undergraduates. As part of that I'm busy trying to recruit healthcare professionals to teach undergraduates. It's a professional obligation for me, but other individuals aren't obliged to stay late to teach, so it happens by goodwill.

"The erosion of pay and pensions will only erode goodwill and I have real concerns about the repercussions on the NHS and what it provides.

"The government remain largely silent on the huge bonus settlements for their friends in the banking sector, and out of pure ideology choose to punish nurses, doctors and teachers who bear no responsibility for the deficit. Public sector workers are, indeed, all in it together."

Colin Pritchard, firefighter, Cardiff

"I'm not happy - as a firefighter we've already had a three-year pay freeze, not the two-year freeze that was promised, so that means we are much worse off than three years ago," he says.

"And we already had pension reforms a few years ago and now they're going to do it again.

"As firefighters we already pay 11% towards our pensions and now they are going to increase it by a further 3%.

"Everyone knows how much things have increased in price, just look at fuel, gas and electricity for example. With the impact of inflation life is getting very, very difficult.

"We want to be honest people, earning an honest wage, paying for an honest pension."