Attacks on Public Sector Pension Schemes

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2005 National Delegate Conference
28 February 2005

Conference is alarmed at the attacks from the employers and the government on public sector pension schemes. This commenced last year with proposals to significantly reduce the benefits of the local government scheme including raising the age at which pensions would be payable.

The government has now issued proposals for consultation which affect most public sector schemes across UNISON organised areas and in services organised by other public sector unions.

Conference believes that the government, and those who would attack workers’ pay and conditions, have been allowed to lead the debate on pensions and public opinion seems to have accepted that reductions in pensions benefits are inevitable. It is essential that the political debate surrounding pensions is turned around and public opinion is made aware of the fact that Britain can easily afford well-funded pension schemes. The attacks on these schemes are merely a result of employers’ greed and further illustration of attacks on workers’ benefits generally.

The employers and the government seem determined to continue their attacks on public sector pensions provision and Conference believes that only a concerted campaign involving industrial action is likely to be effective in maintaining existing benefits. Furthermore, it is considered to be essential to coordinate resistance across all UNISON services and with other public service unions.

Conference calls for a major campaign to defend pensions provision including:

1)launching a major publicity campaign amongst members to alert them to the significance of the changes proposed by the employers and the government and to explain why decent pensions are affordable. The publicity should aim to turn around the current pensions argument and point out the increasing wealth of the nation over the last decade and the ability to pay enhanced pensions as a result. Information should also be sought on the contribution record of employers over the last 15 years in terms of employers reducing their contributions or taking contribution holidays;

2)calling on all service group executives, whose members are affected by any proposals, to prepare an action plan including proposals for industrial action across their particular service;

3)coordinate campaigns and proposals for industrial action across all services to enable a common timetable to be prepared;

4)communicate with other affected public sector unions and the Trade Union Congress with a view to coordinating action across the whole of the public sector;

5)make clear that our dispute is with the employers and the government’s attempts to impose detrimental changes to pensions provision.

In addition to the campaign amongst members, we call upon the National Executive Council to continue to organise a campaign amongst MPs, especially those members of the UNISON group of MPs, urging them to attempt to stop the government from imposing detrimental changes to pensions schemes. Branches should be advised of the importance of lobbying local MPs in their area.