Excluding Future Higher Education, Further Education and Sixth Form Staff from the Local Government Pension Scheme

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2019 National Delegate Conference
7 June 2019

Conference opposes this government’s continued attacks on public sector pensions, the latest of which comes in the form of the recent consultation “Local Government Pension Scheme: Changes to the Local Valuation Cycle and the Management of Employer Risk” launched in May 2019, from the Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities.

These changes, if implemented, would allow Higher Education Institutions (HEIS), further education colleges and sixth form colleges to choose not to offer the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) to new staff.

When combined with the publication of the government’s “Review of post 18 education and funding” by Dr Philip Augar, published at the end of May 2019, it is easy to draw a line from the commentary on cutting costs relating to non-teaching activities, to that of providing a mechanism for education providers to reduce expenditure on pension costs. This potential restriction in scheme participation could substantially impact the LGPS and risk its future sustainability.

With scheme members working in local government, higher and further education, schools, community, housing, police and justice, private contractors, energy, and water, environment and transport, this is a significant cross-sector and cross-service group issue. Any detrimental change to the LGPS constitutes a major attack on the current and future living standards of hundreds of thousands of UNISON members and their dependents.

Conference opposes the plans because:

1)This is an attack on the pension rights of working people delivering public services;

2)Whilst initial figures suggest approximately 3% of LGPS membership is at risk it could grow to around 20% of the potential membership of the LGPS if later extended to all admitted and scheduled bodies;

3)This would lead to serious cash flow issues for LGPS funds and impact on local services through increased costs;

4)It would lead to a two tier workforce in pensions with new starters being offered inferior and less cost effective schemes;

5)If not challenged, it would discriminate against support staff, particularly women and low paid, and will lead to many retiring into poverty with a cost to the individual and state in the form of additional benefit payments;

6)This would undermine universities and colleges who decide to still provide access to the LGPS including HEIs and FE colleges in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland;

7)By not seeking the advice and views of the LGPS Scheme Advisory Board before consulting on this, the governance structure for the LGPS agreed by the government is undermined;

8)The proposed changes would potentially affect the future viability and security of the scheme;

9)UNISON is concerned that if this change proceeds that other groups of workers may, in time, also be excluded from accessing the LGPS or even forced out of the scheme altogether.

Conference recalls the UNISON policy set by the 2010 National Delegate Conference which required the “placing of the defence of the LGPS at the centre of a strategy to build unity across service groups and sectors and with other unions to oppose any proposed detrimental changes to pension rights”.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to coordinate a cross service group campaign against this proposal by:

a)Seeking support from employers to reject this proposal in the consultation which closes on 31 July 2019;

b)Working with the TUC and other unions to campaign against this proposal;

c)Lobbying MPs and Lords to oppose this and vote against any statutory changes to the scheduled status of HEIs and FE and sixth form colleges;

d)Considering all legal means to oppose and challenge this, including (but not limited to) service groups independently considering industrial action ballots through their own processes.