- 2005 Local Government Service Group Conference
- 10 June 2005
Conference restates our complete opposition to any detrimental changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme which would reduce our members’ security when facing retirement, redundancy or ill-health.
The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is not a costly and unaffordable scheme – it provides a modest income in old age for workers who have served the public faithfully. The average pension is only £3800 a year.
Conference believes that the financial problems of the scheme are not overwhelming. Those that do exist are as much the result of employer contribution holidays in the past, Gordon Brown’s tax on pension funds and of poor stock market performance, which is now turning around, as they are of demographic changes
Conference welcomes the withdrawal of the Amendment Regulations and the decision to set up tripartite negotiating machinery. This victory demonstrates that strike action by public sector workers can defeat the Labour Government’s public sector reform agenda and we congratulate UNISON members for their willingness to take strike action to defend pensions. We thank and welcome the support of the other unions such as PCS, who were prepared to co-ordinate strike action with UNISON even though the changes to the other unions’ schemes were not due to happen for another year. We also welcome those unions such as NATFE and NUT, as well as our colleagues in the Higher Education Service Group, who were preparing to join us on a second wave of action.
Conference is aware that the threat has by no means gone away and it is very likely that the government will come back with the same or similar changes. We must continue to vigorously defend our pensions, using industrial action if necessary, against such attack. UNISON should help build the biggest possible alliance of other trade unions and UNISON sectors as possible to continue to defend public sector pensions.
UNISON wants to see the scheme improved. We believe that the scheme must be structured to make choice a reality for as many as possible. We want to see an end to discrimination against same sex and unmarried partners and more low paid members in the scheme.
Conference believes that:
The public sector must continue to set the benchmark for a decent income for people in retirement. The fact that the private sector is trying to jettison final salary schemes is no excuse for abandoning them in the public sector. What has happened to all the rhetoric about being an “employer of choice”?
If the Government really wants people to take more responsibility for their own welfare in old age, then allowing final salary schemes to be abandoned is the worst thing to do.
‘Career average’ schemes will not necessarily benefit women or the low paid. Indeed, they could impact badly on those who have taken time out or worked part-time to care for children or other relatives.
Conference categorically rejects any suggestion of ‘compromise agreements’ on this matter and Conference agrees that its opposition to increasing to 65 the age of entitlement to an unreduced pension is not negotiable.
Conference notes with some concern that, despite branches supplying details that the regional offices had requested, many employers with admitted body status were not notified correctly by the union as per the legislation of the ballot, although the members were balloted. Had the action gone ahead these members would not have been able to take part. Additional concern is expressed that members in some admitted body status schemes were not balloted at all.
Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to:
1)Continue to campaign, with other public sector trade unions and groups such as Age Concern to protect our pension schemes
2)To ensure that the tripartite body is a genuine negotiation body and ensure that at least one lay member, elected by and from the Service Group Executive, forms part of the UNISON delegation on this body. If at any point the body ceases to be a genuine negotiation body or the changes are to be imposed, the membership is to be immediately balloted for strike action without the need for a further consultative ballot.”
3)Draw up proposals for positive changes such as pension rights for same sex, unmarried partners, access to the scheme by low paid members and flexible return arrangements and improvement in pension provision and the right to early retirement
4)Undertake a major Consultation exercise with all members, recognising the potential of recruiting new members
5)Provide Branches with details of the pension scheme applicable to Members of Parliament as a campaigning tool
6)Continue to support and organise industrial action to defend our pensions with other public sector trade unions in line with UNISON procedures
7)The Service Group Executive is instructed to report back to branches and members on a regular basis on the progress of the negotiations at the Pension Forum
8)The Service Group Executive is instructed to review the arrangements for national industrial action ballots to ensure that the mistakes made in the pensions ballot held in January/February 2005 are not repeated
9)The Service Group Conference agrees that no major changes to the pension scheme are agreed to by UNISON unless there has been prior approval by a ballot of all UNISON members eligible to join by the scheme