Sunday, April 08, 2012

Civil Service pensions offer - the best that can be achieved by negotiation?

Although UNISON is the dominant player in negotiations on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and is a key player in negotiations on health service pensions, we do also have a small number of members in the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme - and these members are being balloted on the Government's "final offer" (http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/pages_view.asp?did=14198) on the familiar basis that this is "the best that can be achieved by negotiation." (http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2656).

I can't remember seeing reported where an elected body within our Union had made decisions in relation to this ballot but - as that's doubtless the consequence of my inattentiveness and poor memory - I have asked the relevant questions and shall share the answers in due course.

I'm also intrigued as to how we have come to the judgment that the offer on civil service pensions is indeed "the best that can be achieved by negotiation."

Negotiations on the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme have taken place between the Cabinet Office and the National Trade Union Committee for the Civil Service which was formed when the former Council of Civil Service Unions was dissolved (http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/index.cfm/id/AF7C15FC-61DD-4D0D-BE46703B8427D180).

When the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General reported to the House of Commons on the position of trade unions in relation to the civil service pension scheme on 20 December he said; "FDA, Prospect, GMB Prison Governors Association and the Immigration Services Union have agreed to take to their Executives as the best that can be achieved through negotiations. There is a specific outstanding issue relating to mechanisms for prison officers to retire earlier than state pension age where we are continuing to have discussions with the Prison Officers Association." (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111220/wmstext/111220m0001.htm) He didn't mention UNISON.

The note placed in the House of Commons Library about the Civil Service scheme (http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN03224) when it comes to report the response of the trade unions to the final offer, notes (at paragraph 4.3) that Prospect have agreed to recommend the final offer "as the best that can be achieved by negotiation" and that the managers' union, the First Division Association (FDA) have also concluded that this is "the best that can be achieved by negotiation", but that members of UNITE and PCS (which alone represents the large majority of unionised members of the scheme) have voted to reject. It doesn't mention UNISON.

Were we even present at any negotiations in order to conclude that their outcome was "the best that can be achieved"?

Why has UNISON arrived at the same conclusion as the Prospect/FDA minority and not the PCS/UNITE majority?

These aren't simply rhetorical questions, and their answers won't only relate to the pensions dispute.

There is only one other large, predominantly public service trade union with which we recently agreed a joint statement (http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/campaigns/campaign-resources/pcs-and-unison-joint-statement.cfm).

As our General Secretary said of UNISON's alliance with PCS; "This is no paper policy, this alliance has teeth." (http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/news_centre/index.cfm/id/CAE1742C-7735-4BFD-ADEDBEF5EE73B3FE).

If UNISON doesn't build on the possibility of joint campaigning with our brothers and sisters in PCS they clearly have other options (http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/pcs_comment_archive.cfm/id/9FBFFD72-7284-4FAF-81A810DE7FEBE412).

All of which leads me - in a convoluted way - to the conclusion that all those with an input to the prioritisation process for UNISON National Delegate Conference should prioritise Motion 11 on "Closer Working with the Public and Commercial Services Union" from the Kent Local Government Branch.

And, of course, I'll let you know how UNISON arrived at a conclusion about the civil service pension negotiations which is diametrically opposed to the conclusion of our allies in PCS - just as soon as someone tells me...


Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

3 comments:

Ian Albert said...

Jon - absolutely agree with your comments. We need to put aside any differences at senior official level. This is just too important.

PCS tried to arrange meetings to discuss the closer working arrangements. But for various reasons they have not taken place. After the conference season renewed efforts should be made to get this to happen.

On the pensions offer, I accept that we may not get better offer without industrial action. But that is no reason for any form of recommendation to accept. To be clear that "best that can be achieved by negotiation" is code for recommending acceptance.

We went on strike over contribution rates, RPI/CPI, pension age and less favourable accrual rates. All of these are included in CS pensions offer. So why would any union give the offer any form of positive recommendation to members?

The only reason might be if you thought there was a danger of it being withdrawn for something worse across all non local government schemes. Realistically there is very little danger of this as they'ge done their worst already. So really can't understand some positions taken by union executives.

But to conclude where I started. I hope that Unison and PCS can build on the bones of the agreement we have in place I'm next few months.
Happy to talk!

Ian Albert
PCS National Executive Committee

Anonymous said...

Yes but PCS has now thrown in its lot with Unite. No lay decision, but merger is on the cards. UNISON doesn't feature in their plans at all now.
GSs of both unions see it as a left/ right thing but it makes no sense.McCluskey just a short term opportunist

Anonymous said...

Given the way Unison lets East Lothian council treat it's care workers I am surprised anyone trusts Unison to defend it's members. I know when I was an ELC employee I had to threaten Unision with legal action so get them to stand up for my rights. It seems Unision did not believe in equal pay! for two people working side by side doing the same job......my action got me a £40 per week pay rise!