Leaders of the the 11 trade unions with members in the local government pensions scheme have called off further strikes over the future of the scheme. They say they have won a framework for further talks with the employers and the government.
Withdrawing the action is a profound mistake.
In the week when events in France showed what was possible on the basis of determined and escalating struggle, the British union leaders have thrown away the momentum created by the magnificent 28 March strike by up to 1.5 million workers.
The framework accepted by the negotiators on Tuesday is virtually the same as that put forward by the Local Government Association on Friday of last week. This effectively accepts the abolition of the rule of 85, which allows some local government workers to retire at 60 if they have 25 year’s service.
The only major difference is that the new framework it offers that half the savings from the abolition of the rule of 85 will be used to protect the pensions of present workers rather than “up to 50 percent”.
There is no guarantee that all present workers will have their pension protected, the aim which Unison union general secretary Dave Prentis has declared as his target, let alone protecting present and future workers, which ought to have been the aim.
Instead the statement promises only that there will be “discussions” about full protection for present workers.
Disgracefully there are no plans for full consultation with the members before the strikes are called off. The decision to suspend strikes set for 25–27 April went through Unison’s local government service group executive by 17 votes to six on Wednesday.
That’s the end of it as far as the top union leaders are concerned.
The strikes should have gone ahead to step up the pressure on the government in the run-up top the 4 May local elections.
If the employers come back with an unacceptable deal at the end of talks (scheduled to be completed by June) it will be much harder to get the mood of resistance going again than it would have been had the action continued.
Union members should bombard their union reps, service group members and national executives condemning this deal and calling for special union conferences to discuss the way forward. There should be no deal agreed without a full ballot.
The joint statement:
Local Government Pension Scheme: joint statement 11 April 2006
Joint statement from unions and employers on further talks over the future of the local government pension scheme.
- The statement by the Minister for Local Government on 30th March laying Parliamentary Orders, including the Order to abolish the Rule of 85 from October 2006, provides a framework for developing a new-look scheme. He said that “in the light of discussions held yesterday with the Trade Unions and Local Government Employers, we are calling on both sides to begin talks, to start now on a nothing rule in nothing ruled out basis, to address the protection of existing Scheme members, the recycling of savings, and the development of a more equitable Scheme”.
The Minister also said on 28th March that “a key element of these discussions which have already begun within the framework provided by the Tripartite Committee will be to address positively the concerns expressed about the position of existing scheme members who contrast their particular circumstances with the agreement reached in October 2005 by other but unfunded public service Pension Schemes. The government intends that these reforms can be guided by the principle that up to half of the savings achieved by the final removal of the rule of 85 can be re-cycled into the development of whatever benefit package is felt by the Stakeholders and membership to be appropriate for the new-look 2008 Scheme”.
- All participants are firmly committed to change in pension provision, now and in the future, being made by agreement as far as possible, respecting the role of the DPM as regulator.
- This commitment to create a new-look scheme should encompass all issues raised by the participants within the context of the Parliamentary orders and related Ministerial statements. The scheme must be sustainable and affordable for employers and as a key element of the renumeration, recruitment and retention package for Local Government employees and those belonging to admitted bodies.
- The following specific action points are emphasised by the participants to be addressed during this process:
Work to resolve the outstanding differences in relevant actuarial assessments to be undertaken immediately and all emerging proposals to be assessed by professional advisers appointed by the participants.
50% of the savings accruing from the abolition of the Rule of 85, and of savings from the revised commutation arrangements, to be made available to fund scheme improvements, including protection arrangements for existing staff, and creating a more equitable and affordable Scheme.
Urgent negotiations to take place incorporating discussions on affordable protection to existing staff, including full protection, and on developing a good quality, sustainable and affordable new-look LGPS going forward, equality proofed with greater choice and flexibility on when and how members move from employment to retirement and having regard to the respective contributions of employers and employees, taking account of appropriate actuarial and legal advice.
- All participants are committed to concluding the first phase of these negotiations in order to report to the Tripartite Committee in June. The Minister said in his 30th March statement that “the Government stands prepared to introduce further amendments before the summer recess to update the regulations in the light of any agreed proposals which emerge from the talks between the Trade Unions and Local Government Employers”.
11 April 2006