Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Privatisation will damage all our pensions

Full marks to Barnet UNISON for having commissioned a paper on the impact on their pension scheme of mass opt-outs. Even if lobbying from the Local Government Employers, and alternative cost-saving proposals, mean that we avoid increases in pension contributions in the LGPS on the scale threatened elsewhere in public services, outsourcing could still lead to massive reductions in the active (paying) membership of local authority pension funds.

Barnet’s paper shows how large scale privatisation of our jobs could push our pension schemes to a tipping point at which they begin to have cashflow problems, and have to adopt more cautious investment strategies (worsening existing deficits). The answer to this would be to require private companies bidding for our work to have admitted body status and to allow all their staff to be members of the LGPS.

This, however, would not permit privateers to profiteer by slashing labour costs, which is (essentially) the entire purpose of privatisation, whether in its “Tory blue in tooth and claw” form of Barnet’s EasyCouncil or its soft and fluffy New Labour version of Lambeth’s “Co-operative Council.”

Unless we secure a guarantee that private sector workers can stay in the LGPS – and that private contractors taking on LGPS members must match our pension provision pound for pound – we ought to be pursuing national strike action against the attacks on our pensions. This is the test which history has set for UNISON’s current national leadership and it will determine how they are remembered.

Why has the Barnet branch had to commission a paper which should have been prepared by and on behalf of the national trade union?

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