Monday, November 27, 2006

UNISON United by Pensions Anger

UNISON is united in anger at recent developments in relation to the Local Government Pension Scheme, about which I commented here earlier.

General Secretary Dave Prentis is urging all local government pension scheme members to take immediate action to let their employers, councillors and MPs know how angry we are at the pensions negotiations being spiked by the "hostile intervention" of the local government minister.

His occasionally vociferous critic, local government member of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) Glenn Kelly (pictured here to your right and Dave's left, which is not a political comment on anyone) has circulated a report to branches making the following points.

Glenn reports that; “Having already scrapped the right to retire at 60, (if you have 25yrs local government service) which has saved the employers £15billion, they have refused to even move on the protection offered for existing members of the scheme. Only those over 50 are being offered protection.

They now want us to pay more. At the moment ex manual workers pay 5% of their salary in pension contributions and the rest pay 6%.

The government offer is now saying contribution rates will be 5.5% on the first £12k earned and 7.5% on rest. It will be some of the lowest paid who will suffer most out of this.

But, It won’t stop there, unlike the past where the rates of contribution were fixed they now want us to bear the brunt of any future problems. They are proposing that the amount we pay is reviewed again in 2009 for any further changes being implemented in 2011.

Whilst we pay more, the employers will be able to cut their contribution rate down to 13.2% from 14.5%.

At the moment you can take your pension at 50 if your made redundant and in many council’s you can also get added years. Both these measures are now to go and you will not be able to take your pension even if made redundant before the age of 55 this is to be introduced in 2010

At the moment if your declared permanently unfit for your job you can take your pension and get added years service. The government are now proposing that is not enough. If your declared unfit for your job but told you are fit for “any gainful” employment even outside public services then you lose the right to this benefit and will only get the pension you’ve accrued.

On top of this even if you are declared unfit and get your ill health pension, it could be taken off you, if later on your declared fit for gainful work. This could be a bully’s charter of the sick.

The only real plus on offer is the promise that the accrual rate will now be 1/60th rather than 1/80th. In the main this would mean that you could get a bigger pension or a higher lump sum than currently.

However this higher rate will only apply to service after 2008. The government documents do not mention what happens to all your existing service.

In return for this slight increase we will all be forced to work an extra five years longer or lose significant proportion of our pension.”

Since Glenn has yet to join the select (but growing) band of union bloggers I am posting his views up here. I agree with his conclusion that the UNISON Local Government Service Group Executive meeting on 4 December needs to set the ball rolling for strike action – in line with the policy agreed at our Conference last June.

There does not seem to be any other option. If we can stand united as a Union we can defeat the Government and defend our pensions!

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