Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pensions - how to ignore Conference policy and disregard Equality

This is an update to UNISON colleagues which has been shared with me today, in connection with the continuing non-appearance of the Equality Impact Assessment into the proposals for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS 2014);
 
"The LGPS Project Team (negotiators) met yesterday to consider the draft EIA commissioned. We have provided the external agency with further information to enable them to expand the EIA and provide us with a further draft.
 
In the meantime we are confident that the actual earnings contributions of part-time workers, the freeze in contributions for 95% of members, the more progressive contribution bandings , the 50/50 scheme and the right to retain membership of the scheme on transfer all constitute significant improvements which will be of benefit to part-time workers, women and the low paid."

I don't doubt that our negotiators are sincere, but that isn't enough to bring the actions of our officials in line with our Conference policy. UNISON's Local Government Conference in Bournemouth in June unanimously agreed Emergency Motion 5, which stated that "Conference notes that proposals for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) were released on 31 May 2012. UNISON's Equality Scheme includes an action plan which includes (within the Local Government Service Group section) Ref LG 12 which states that it is our target that "All future regulatory changes proposed to the LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) are equality impact-assessed". Conference therefore calls for the publication of a full equality impact assessment of the LGPS 2014 Proposals prior to any ballot of members in the Local Government Service Group."

Since officials are under instruction energetically to cajole activists (other than in the Higher Education Service Group) to campaign for "policy" set by their Service Group Executives (SGEs) - even though there is no "policy" until the ballot results are in and this action by officials contravenes UNISON Rule B.2.5 - it is worth noting that the recommendation from the Local Government SGE, since it is made in a ballot taking place contrary to Service Group Conference policy, can provide no basis for such improper pressure upon branches and activists.

The disappointing failure of our officials to implement the unanimous decision of our Local Government Service Group Conference says something a little dispiriting about respect for lay democracy in our trade union.

However, it says something even less encouraging about the seriousness with which our senior national officials believe that Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) should be taken.

In our branches we rightly press for full EIAs prior to consideration of changes to our conditions of service - in line with national guidance we are encouraged to refer to legal decisions which have established principles such as;

"The duty is complied with before and at the time that a particular policy is under consideration and a decision is taken. A public authority cannot satisfy the duty by justifying a decision after it has been taken," and;

"Consideration of the need to advance equality forms an integral part of the decision-making process. The duty must be exercised in such a way that it influences the final decision."

What will a branch say in future to an employer pressing them to ballot members on a detrimental changes to conditions without the employer having completed an EIA when the employer observes that UNISON was content to ballot our members on the LGPS (with a recommendation to accept) without having seen the EIA which our own Conference called for?

For those interested in such matters, the Rules being breached now in the conduct of the LGPS Ballot include B.1.2, B.2.2, B.2.5 and D.3.4.2. None of these Rules are being breached by branches or activists, all are being breached by national officials.

Were I not relaxing on holiday I might be just the tiniest bit angry.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The question is, are national officials bound by UNISON rules, given that they aren't UNISON members?