The dispute over the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is reaching its most crucial stage.
The proposals, which affect over a million workers in local government, education, the police, transport and the Environment Agency, are to be finalised by 28 February.
The new scheme clearly involves us paying more for less. It should be rejected – yet trade union negotiators are sending out the message that it is a good deal.
Under the proposals, members of the scheme will have to pay increased contributions while employers get a 2 percent cut.
This affects people in different ways. Most members currently pay 6 percent. Under the new proposals we will all pay 5.5 percent on the first £12,000 earned and 7.5 percent on the rest. Anyone earning £16,000 or more will pay more.
Some argue this will benefit the low paid – but there’s a sting in the tail. Contributions for part time workers will not be based on their actual earnings, but on those of their full time equivalent.
LGPS members held a tremendous strike last March to demand the retention of the “rule of 85” that allows some to retire early. Yet the current proposals only offer protection until 2016.
This falls short of what other public service workers have agreed. It doesn’t meet the bottom line promised by Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union.
Moreover, the age that someone can access their pension when being made redundant is raised from 50 to 55 from 2010.
Negotiators submit that the new scheme increases benefits by 8 percent. But this figure assumes that people live to over 80. The figure also fails to calculate the effect of increased contributions.
It is thus crucial that local government branches in Unison send delegates to the special conference on 6 March. We must ensure that the proposals are rejected and an industrial action ballot starts immediately.
It is no secret that some at the top of Unison think this is a good deal. A service group executive meeting on 8 February suggests there will be an attempt to accept the current proposals.
The executive voted to continue talks and reconvene on 27 February in time to send an emergency motion to the special conference.
My branch, Kirklees, has submitted two motions to the 6 March conference.
The first rejects the new pension scheme and the second outlines how any future dispute should be conducted to ensure that mistakes previously made are not repeated.
The special conference is supported by at least 92 branches representing 37 percent of the membership.
We will be writing to all those branches to invite them to a meeting to discuss the conference. We intend to hold the meeting in central London on 5 March.