Pensions cases clog up tribunals

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The Independent Online
THE WHITE-collar MSF union has sent 300,000 of its members application forms for industrial tribunal hearings - already half filled in - with the union magazine this month, writes Andrew Bibby.

MSF is urging members to work out if they may be affected by an imminent European Court judgment on pension law, and if so to complete and submit the form immediately. Making a claim may help to safeguard certain pension rights.

The MSF's move follows a similar initiative by the Police Federation last month, which has already clogged up the industrial tribunal system. According to Les Peckham, the federation's pension officer, about 170,000 of his members have entered claims.

The issue centres on the question of equal occupational pension rights for men and women. The European Court of Justice, which ruled three years ago that pensions are a form of pay and bound by equal pay laws, is now contemplating four further cases that raise issues involving the implementation of this judgment.

Decisions on these new cases are expected in the autumn. If the court follows usual practice and adopts the formal legal opinion already delivered by the Advocate-General, equalisation of some benefits will not be back-dated before the date of the judgment. However, employees who have already submitted claims for equal pension treatment may be able to claim retrospectively - hence the current push by trade unions.

Bryan Freake, pensions officer with MSF, said his union felt it was necessary to give its members the chance of lodging claims. Two other large unions, Unison and the GMB, are currently taking legal advice.