Sunday, March 11, 2012

NHS Pensions - What if?

UNITE are recommending that their health service members reject the Government's "final offer" on pensions (http://www.unitetheunion.org/news__events/latest_news/unite_calls_for_rejection_of_g.aspx).

This puts them on the same page as the Doctors' union - the non-TUC British Medical Association (BMA), although - unlike UNITE - the BMA are currently calling for support from their members for industrial action (http://web2.bma.org.uk/nrezine.nsf/wd/BSKN-8RXGBE?OpenDocument&C=3+March+2012).

In the mean time the non-TUC nurses' "union", the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are equivocating following a poor turnout in a consultative ballot, but have not accepted that their members should work longer and pay more to get less (http://m.nursingtimes.net/5042067.article).

UNISON is the largest and most important trade union in the health service but - unlike in local government - we don't have such overwhelming numbers that our decision alone is utterly decisive.

On the face of their "final offer" on the NHS Pension Scheme, the Government make clear that; "If the proposals are not accepted by a sufficient number of Trade Unions, the Government reserves its position on all aspects of this proposed scheme design."

Although it may not be much of a threat that they might withdraw an "offer" which, the Government Actuaries Department (GAD) confirm, is within the same cost ceiling as the "Reference Scheme" offered on 2 November, it does beg the question of where the dispute might go, on each side, if enough unions reject the offer - and of what a "sufficient number" of trade unions will turn out to be.

Incidentally, GAD assume, for the purposes of valuing the scheme, that earnings growth will exceed the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) by 2.25% a year in the long run, which rather puts into perspective the misleading implication in UNISON's published commentary on the Heads of Agreement that a revaluation rate of CPI+1.5% is somehow "better" than revaluation in line with earnings growth, because earnings have fallen behind prices in the recent past.

The whole point of the work undertaken by GAD is surely that you can only assess the value of a CARE pension scheme on the basis of the interplay of the accrual rate and the revaluation rate (considered in the light of the contribution rate). The GAD valuation underlines that it would be dishonest to brag to members about the "better" accrual rate compared to the "Reference scheme" without acknowledging that this is offset by the less favourable revaluation rate. The detail of the information we put before our members will be an indication of our integrity.

As to the question "What if enough health workers reject the Tory Coalition's pensions robbery which would see them working until 68, whilst paying more to get less?" I think the answer to that question is still that we could deliver a unified fight on pensions across the public sector which could win a better settlement.

Key to realising this potential would be a clear recognition on the part of our leadership, that this battle is part of the general war which the Government have declared upon us (and is therefore inextricably linked to the fights over pay, jobs and the defence of the Welfare State and NHS) - and a serious effort to develop this recognition amongst our members.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

2 comments:

Paul Cooney said...

Compare this with the attitude of UNISON to the same attack on NHS pensions in Scotland see http://unison-scotland.blogspot.com/2012/03/unison-increases-pressure-on-scottish.html

Anonymous said...

Unite have about half a dozen members in Health !