Update on Pensions Dispute

Members will have seen in the media the wide coverage of the outcome of negotiations on pensions yesterday between all public sector trade unions and Government.

A document was finalised under the title of ‘Heads of Agreement’, a structure outlining ground rules for future public sector pensions and setting the basic terms which will feature in further scheme specific negotiations in the next few months.

Although the ‘Heads of Agreement’ have not been agreed in any binding form by anyone as yet, most trade unions agreed that they would be referred to each union for consultation.

Before the ink was dry the agreement by Local Government trade unions to consult on these proposals was suspended following Eric Pickles’ statement that contributions by local government employers to our pension scheme would be capped regardless of the valuation due in 2013.

The Government have now described the Heads of Agreement as being their ‘final offer’.

Regardless of whether the threat from Eric Pickles is withdrawn, Branch Officers are concerned that future negotiations on the detail of any future local government scheme will be fettered by some aspects of the terms set out in the Heads of Agreement.

A special Branch Executive has been called on 4 January to determine Branch policy on this matter in advance of a regional meeting on the 5th and a National meeting to held on 10 January 2012.

The Branch Executive will be asked to consider the following motion by Branch Officers.

Pensions Dispute

This Branch notes the Heads Of Agreement announced on 20 December 2011.

We recognise the efforts of UNISON and other trade unions to try and secure an improvement in the Government position and that in some ways the Government have moved slightly in some protection arrangements and more significantly in terms of the accrual rate.

However the document seeks an agreement on some points which are unacceptable.

Whilst no immediate increases in contributions are proposed we are asked in advance to accept that they will increase from 2014 by an unidentified amount subject to the evaluation of the scheme in 2013.

None of the additional contributions would go into our pension fund as it is already fully funded and has a large surplus.

It would in effect go straight to government to help pay for the bankers debts.

We are asked to give up our existing Final Salary scheme and accept a CARE (Career Average) scheme.

Our members need much more detailed information on the implications of CARE for them collectively and individually, before they can reasonably be expected to work out whether what’s on the table is a fair deal or not for them.

Although there is protection for members over 55 and a tapered protection for three years prior to that all other members will have to work longer.

This Branch acknowledges that members delivered for our union on 30 November in seeking to oppose proposals to make members ‘work longer, pay more and get less’.

The Heads of Agreement proposals mean that most of our members will work longer, pay more from 2014 and many will lose pension if the final salary scheme is lost.

This Branch Executive believes without major improvements being achieved the current proposals should be rejected by UNISON and calls on all Branch representatives to call for that policy regionally and nationally.

The Branch will keep members up to date on any developments and in the meantime I would welcome feedback on the above suggested policy before the Branch Executive meeting on 4 January 2012.

Pat McDonagh

Branch Secretary

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