Pensions Bill approval is ‘bad deal’ for public servants - Colum Eastwood

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood has said that the Public Service Pensions Bill is a bad deal for public servants.

Speaking after the SDLP voted against the bill in the Assembly yesterday, Mr Eastwood said the new legislation will only serve to punish hard working public servants in Northern Ireland.

“The consequences of this new legislation are far reaching for our hard working public servants and it is obvious to the SDLP that the bill represents a bad deal for them. It’s very disappointing that Sinn Fein, the DUP and the UUP have failed our public servants by voting for this ill-judged, Tory-inspired proposal.

“Under the provisions of this legislation public servants will be forced to work until they are 68. Teachers, nurses, doctors and local government workers - these are people who work in posts which are physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, and they are to be punished by this bill,” he said.

“Since day one of this bill, the SDLP has fully engaged with workers, their Unions and others who will be affected by the legislation. We have attempted to bring reasoned amendments which would represent the best deal for the 230,000 public servants who will lose out as a result of this bill. Unfortunately the call of reason has fallen on deaf ears and some of our hardest working will be the greatest victims,” the Foyle MLA said.

Mr Eastwood added that it is safe to predict that increasing the pension age will result in a dramatic increase in the number of ill health retirements with more people out of work on capability grounds. “We will pay the price for this - the cost of which remains to be seen. It’s obvious that the effect of this bill on future employment has simply not been assessed and that is one of the reasons why it is important to unite with workers against it,” Mr Eastwood added.

“Additionally, increased numbers of public servants working longer will mean a reduction in job opportunities for young people. In Derry unemployment levels are already startling and this Bill will only perpetuate our ongoing problem.”

Mr Eastwood added: “The SDLP has ensured that this Bill was subject to the full rigours of the legislative process and some worthwhile amendments have been achieved but the legislation is still not as we would like it to be - it simply is not the best possible deal for public servants, in fact it is a bad deal for all.”

The bill was passed by 77 votes to 13.