Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pensions: time to re-join the fight

Since the fantastic action on the 30th November UNISON has been in negotiations with the Local Government association (LGA) and in effect suspended industrial action over pensions since the beginning of the year. 

This in my view was a mistake. 

I am not against negotiations, but it did not mean we had to suspend strike action. 

UNISON with other unions was supposedly in negotiations leading up to the strike action on the 30th November and beyond.
I am disappointed that we broke the unity of the dispute by entering into individual scheme negotiations in December.  It was also somewhat disappointing and frustrating that our own negotiators reached a secret agreement with the LGA and refused to tell members what that agreement was for over 3 months, this was supposedly because the government had not agreed to it. Finally, however the proposed agreement was made public on 31st May 2012.
Since we took action on the 30th November with over 20 other unions: further action over pensions has taken place with UNISON health members in Scotland, the civil service union (PCS), teachers (NUT) and lecturers (UCU) as well as UNITE in the NHS across the UK.   

The dispute is now growing with the Doctors due to take action on the 21st June and UNISON members in health outside Scotland also having voted to reject the proposed health scheme.
What Happens Next?
Members will be balloted to accept or reject the proposed changes to the LGPS scheme, currently that’s likely to take a two stage process one where members are consulted at branch level on the recommendation and the number of members responding will be "aggregated", so the turnout would be crucial. 

This would be followed by a full postal ballot of all members with a recommendation based on the outcome of the branch level ballot. However there are emergency motions being submitted to the National LG conference taking place in just over a week’s time proposing that the recommendation for the ballot should simply be to reject.
Whatever the process our branch should recommend rejection and propose further joint action to defend our pensions in the autumn (see emergency motions in this section).

We started this dispute because we did not want to pay more, work longer, to get less so we should analyse where we are against those measures.
Pay More?

The answer is most definately yes, whilst most people i.e. those earning less the £43000 will not have to pay more per month you will be paying into the scheme longer so will be paying more over a period of time. Of course it welcome that monthly contributions won’t go up. However that was not the only reason we went on strike.

Get Less?

Any reasonable assessment of CPI and inflation would lead to the conclusion that most people would get less due to the move to a career average scheme from a final salary scheme. The accrual rate of 1/49th whilst better than the current 1/60th is not enough to make a the career average scheme comparable to the current scheme. 

To be comparable UNISON told us some months ago a new scheme would need an accrual rate of at least 1/42nd and a revaluation rate higher then CPI. The only likely chance of gaining a higher pension is due to working longer ie well past 65 and as a result you would be gaining very little in the process

Work longer?

The offer completely capitulates to the government agenda on raising the retirement age, young members joining the scheme now are likely to have to wait until they are 71/2 to get a pension and people born today won’t be able to retire until they are nearly 80.

We say Reject and re-Join the fight!

The branch has agreed that we will be arguing for a rejection of the proposal both in a branch ballot and in an all members ballot. If the offer is rejected we call upon our leaders to immediately enter talks with the other trade unions to look at joint action even more widespread then November 30th.

Andrew Berry

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