Thursday, July 13, 2006

Health Service Pensions

It was reported to the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) on 12 July that the UNISON Health Service Group Executive (SGE) had voted to recommend an offer to members in a ballot. The detail will be covered in material accompanying the ballot papers and in information to health branches.

There are a number of improvements to the pension scheme which are to be implemented, and some positive features of the scheme for new starters (although they will have a normal retirement age of 65, compared with 60 – or in some few cases 55 – for current members).

The proposal also includes graduated contributions, with a significantly larger group of lower paid members benefiting from a contribution rate of 5% than at present, whereas the large majority of the workforce will see an increase from 6% to 6.5%. The highest paid will pay 7.5%. Several NEC members asked about how graduated contributions would work in practice and were promised a written response.

I expressed my concern that an increase in contributions in order to secure the protection which had been promised last October seemed to breach the spirit of the Framework Agreement. Dave Prentis pointed out that the Agreement had said that there would be no changes without agreement and that, if we agreed to these changes, they would not breach the Agreement.

Members affected will now have an opportunity to vote on the proposals in a ballot, which I understand is likely to take place in the autumn.

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