Socialist Worker

Unison union activist responds to the pensions talks

Issue No. 1996

Dear Colleagues,

A special Local Government Service Group Executive (LGSGE) has agreed to suspend planned strike action.

Please find below a brief report on the discussions.

[Unison deputy general secretary] Keith Sonnet addressed the meeting and recommended suspension of strike action because of the content of the Local Government Pension Scheme Joint statement.

The full details of the statement are available on the website, in brief the statement contains,

  1. Talks on a 'nothing ruled in and nothing ruled out basis' to address protection, recycling of savings and development of a new scheme.
  2. The [Office of the Deputy Prime Minister] ODPM agree that up to 50 percent of savings can be used for whatever purpose the trade unions and Local Government Association feel appropriate.
  3. 50 percent of all savings from ending the 85 year rule and new commutation rules to be used for protection and scheme improvements.
  4. Urgent talks on affordable protection and changes.

The definition of protection does not appear in the statement but means the retention of the 85 year rule. Currently the regulations protect staff who are aged 53 or over. Unison has been arguing to retain the 85 year rule for all existing staff, this would give parity with NHS workers, Teachers and Civil Servants.

Conference policy is no detriment to the scheme which would mean retention of the 85 year rule for new members.

Keith Sonnet and seven speakers spoke in favour of suspension. The reasons were:

  • Unison had achieved it's objectives including a commitment to use the savings to provide protection and improvements.
  • The Local Government Associaton and ODPM were now talking to trade unions about protection including funding protection, whilst previously they had refused.
  • Five of the other TUs had already agreed suspension.
  • Some members may not support continued action.
  • Members would be more angry if the Local Government Association and ODPM withdrew the statement and would have an increased commitment to strike.
  • The negotiators felt there was ample agreed savings to fund protection.

Six speakers spoke against suspension the reasons were:

  • Members took strike action to retain the 85 year rule or protection for all existing staff, not what Unison negotiators felt were the objectives.
  • The statement contained the phrase 'nothing ruled in and nothing

    > ruled out' which had been used before and had been meaningless.

  • The ODPM was only prepared to authorise recycling of upto 50 percent of savings whilst the Local Government Association stated 50 percent, the ODPM may be able to overrule the Local Government Association and reduce the amount of savings recycled.
  • There are questions about the amount of savings and therefore 50 percent may not be enough to cover protection for all staff.
  • Urgent talks is not the same as guarantees.
  • The 'offer' was worse than offered to NHS workers as they have guarantees of protection, LGPS members did not.
  • Members were very angry with the Local Government Association and ODPM and we need to keep taking action to keep the pressure on until a concrete offer is made and can be put to the members.
  • The credibility of Unison is at stake, members may feel that they have been 'sold out' and lost a days pay for nothing.
  • Unison members may not be willing to mobilise again if we allow too much time to pass.
  • Our members should receive 100 percent of any savings.

There was a brief discussion about the latest actuary reports. The government states that the cost of retaining the 85 year rule for all staff is £5 billion, the trade union and independent actuaries believe it is closer to £3.2 billion. Estimates put the savings on ending the 85 year rule and different commutation at £9 billion. Enough for 50 percent to be used for protection on the trade union estimate of costs.

The decision to suspend action was put to the vote. 17 voted for suspension, six against. The recommendation to suspend was carried.

I spoke and voted against suspending action. I believe that the solid action of Unison members has forced concessions from the ODPM and Local Government Association but we are short of guarantee of protection. As a socialist I also think we should retain the 85 year rule for new staff.

There was then a brief discussion about the timetable for further talks. There is a stakeholders meeting within two weeks, it was indicated the talks on protection will take place by June and a timetable will be circulated to branches.

If you wish to ask me any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours,

John McDermott

LGSGE


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Sat 15 Apr 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1996
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