Voting in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) 2014 ballot will begin tomorrow, 31 July 2012, and all UNISON members who are members of the LGPS, or are eligible to be, will be receiving a ballot paper asking them whether they approve of proposals for a new pension scheme from 2014.
After a fantastic day of strike action on 30 November last year, UNISON and the other local government unions have been involved in months of negotiations with the Local Government Association, which have resulted in a new set of proposals. All five Service Group Executives (SGEs) – the elected national committees for each sector – who represent members in the LGPS met earlier this month to discuss the proposals and make their recommendations to members. Hampshire UNISON has members in more than one service group – you can read the recommendations from each SGE here.
Hampshire UNISON branch committee, made up of elected branch officers and stewards, also discussed the proposals earlier this month. While we acknowledge that the negotiations have produced some improvements on the government’s initial plans for the LGPS we do not believe that these are enough to recommend the deal and we are therefore urging our members to vote ‘no’ in the ballot.
When we took strike action last year we very clearly rejected the idea that our members should pay more, work longer and get less when they retired. So how do the current proposals measure against that?
Average member contributions to the scheme will remain at 6.5%, as now, and most members will pay the same, or lower, contributions. Most part-time workers will pay less because contributions will be based on actual not full-time equivalent earnings. However, this needs to be balanced against the fact that in the proposed scheme members will have to work, and therefore pay, for longer and therefore could still end up paying more for their pension.
In LGPS 2014, a member’s retirement age will be linked to their individual State Pension Age (SPA), which is due to increase to 68. This is not good enough for younger workers many of whom will be working until they drop. The link will also effectively remove members’ retirement ages, part of our terms and conditions, out of the realm of collective bargaining – if the state pension age increases in the future so too will members’ retirement ages, without any negotiation with the trade unions.
Although the proposed 1/49th accrual rate appears to represent an improvement on the existing 1/60th accrual rate, pension benefits will be based on your average earnings over the course of your employment and not your final salary as they are now. Predicting future benefits under the new career average (CARE) scheme therefore relies on projections about future pay rises, as well as assumptions about the rate of inflation. If pay growth exceeds 4% (that is 1.5% above the assumed rate of inflation) then a career average scheme could be worse for many LGPS members, particularly those who stay in the scheme for more than 20 years. Although there is a pay freeze today decades of such low pay rises would be historically unprecedented.
Hampshire UNISON, in calling on its members to reject the LGPS 2014 proposals, acknowledges that sustained industrial action will be required to obtain improvements in the proposal. We believe the government’s attack on our pensions is part of a wider assault on the working class and the welfare state which the trade union movement should meet with determined and unified resistance, for our sake and that of our children. Both the NASUWT and NUT teaching unions are likely to take further strike action over pensions in the autumn, along with other public sector unions. If members vote to reject the LGPS deal UNISON can be part of this action, which could not only put the government on the back foot over pensions, but also over public sector pay and attacks on public services generally.