Pension power

Most UNISON members pay into a work pension fund. These funds are invested, including in companies on stock markets around the world, and the profits help to pay for pensions.

So you are not just a pension fund member but also an investor.

By getting involved in deciding how those very large funds are invested, we can help make this money work for members, society and the general economy.

Pension assets

There’s a lot of money involved: UNISON members’ pension schemes have investment assets worth more than £205bn.

They cover local government; the Environment Agency; energy, water and transport companies; the charitable sector; higher education and private contractors running public services.

Anything up to 60% of a fund’s investments will be in companies registered on the UK and other stock markets.

Did you know?
From April 2014, all LPGS funds must have pensions boards with 50% scheme member representation.

This makes pension scheme members not only effectively shareowners of most companies on these stock markets but majority shareholders in nearly every big company.

UNISON is working with members who have become pension fund trustees to make sure investments are made in the interests of scheme members.

By working together, union pension fund members and trustees can have a real influence.

Executive pay

Directors’ pay and bonuses are put to a vote of shareholders.

As an individual shareholder your vote at a company AGM would count for little, but if your pensions scheme voted against excessive pay this could have a real impact.

While they are unlikely to be able to swing votes on their own, the union group aims to maximise their influence by linking up with other pressure groups

Brian Groom

The Financial Times, 25 March 2013: “Trade unions challenge over social issues”

Fair wages

If pension schemes decide to invest only in companies that pay the living wage, this would be a massive boost to the union’s campaign on that issue.

Investing for jobs and growth

Pension funds could invest in the country’s infrastructure – in roads, transport and schools – so that the economy prospers more jobs are created.

Banks and banking

Most of us hold shares in banks through our pension funds. Shareowners can help to push for more responsible banking.

Who owns what?

UNISON’s capital stewardship programme has undertaken major research – Who Owns UK Public Services Plc? – on who owns all of the companies providing public services.

LGPS governance

From April 2014, all Local Government Pension Scheme funds must have pensions boards with 50% scheme member representation.

UNISON is campaigning to improve member representation in the LGPSand to modernise governance of the funds.

We must get involved with the stewardship of our money and our economy then we can have a real say in the debate about our economy – the power of our pension funds. It’s all about our money, our future.

Jon Gray, UNISON NEC member and LGPS pension fund rep

What you can do

  • Get informed – discuss your pension scheme and its fund at your local union meetings. Ask your branch or regional officer to provide speakers and information about this issue.
  • Become a branch pension contact – know who your pension fund trustee or LGPS rep is and get active amongst the members – be the link between your pension scheme rep or trustee and UNISON members.
  • Take up the challenge and become a UNISON capital steward – an LGPS rep or a trustee on your scheme – and help to protect the future of your pension scheme.
  • If you are a rep or trustee already, register for UNISON’s web community where you will find an online library, discussion boards, news service and much more

Pensions and the living wage

On 3 May 2012, a coalition of investors that included the UNISON staff pension scheme and managed total assets of more than £13bn, wrote to the chief executives of FTSE 100 companies calling for the living wage to be paid across all UK operations.

Read the letter

This campaign is not just about big institutional investors. It also involved action by individual shareholders at a host of FTSE 100 AGMs over the course of 2011 and 2012.

A living wage is the minimum hourly wage necessary for housing, food and other basic needs for an individual and their family.

Living wage employers ensure all their own staff and those of their on-site contractors are paid at least the living wage across all UK operations.

Ask your pension fund to sign up to the Fair Pensions living wage campaign.

Find out more about the campaign.