This is the 19th Wales Protect Our Pensions Industrial Action circular and contains important reports from Tuesday’s UNISON UK Pensions Summit and the respective Service Group Executive meetings and their decisions on pensions’ negotiations.
1. SUCCESSFUL WALES PENSIONS SUMMIT PREPARES WELSH REPRESENTATIVES FOR UK SUMMIT
70 delegates representing 32 Welsh branches (including 7 health branches and 19 LG branches) attended the Wales Pensions Summit this Monday, 9 January, in Cardiff’s Park Inn Hotel.
Margaret Thomas, the new UNISON Wales secretary, welcomed delegates and outlined the importance of the summit to review the successes of the pensions’ campaign, to date, but also to take realistic stock of what we have achieved and how we can win a negotiated settlement.
The summit also heard from Dominic MacAskill, UNISON Wales Pensions campaign lead, on the need to build on the success of November 30th and communicate the real narrative of UNISON, being a strong well organised union, winning significant concessions on the back of the largest mobilisation of organised labour in a generation.
Dave Galligan, UNISON Wales head of health, and Jon Richards, UNISON National secretary, provided detailed briefings on the progress of negotiations in the Health, Local Government and Civil Service schemes (the respective presentations were circulated immediately after the summit).
The summit concluded with delegates discussing the prospects for further industrial action and what form this action could take. However, the consensus of the meeting was that members wanted the union to exhaust all talks before making a final decision.
2. UK PENSIONS SUMMIT SETS THE SCENE BEFORE IMPORTANT SGE MEETINGS
The third UNISON Pension Summit took place this Tuesday, 10 January, in UNISON centre. Eleanor Smith, UNISON President, and Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, both highlighted that no decisions about further public sector pension negotiations had been made.
They informed delegates that the purpose of the summit was to provide an update on the current position within the schemes to inform the SGE’s decisions as to whether UNISON should enter into further negotiations on behalf of members. The point was also made that it is necessary for negotiations to be sector specific in order to produce a meaningful outcome for members.
Dave Prentis reminded delegates that, despite the misleading reports to the contrary, no deals had been made and that any decisions are firmly within the hands of lay members.
Glyn Jenkins, UNISON Head of Pensions, provided a briefing about the CARE (Career Average Revalued Earnings) scheme which underlined that progress has been made within discussions (scanned presentation attached original to follow).
Feedback taken from the floor indicated that, whilst there is much more work to do, there is no current desire for further
industrial action unless negotiations breakdown. This is not to say that further industrial action might not be required or that members could not be mobilised, but that there is a
responsibility to seek further more detailed proposals.
There was a consensus that, if the necessary level of detail is reached and that UNISON's negotiating body believes it to be a reasonable offer, then members should be balloted as to whether the offer should be accepted or not.
If, however, the direction of the negotiations becomes untenable then further industrial action may be called as the industrial action remains live for the period of the dispute.
The summit then broke into sector discussions which were followed in the afternoon by meetings of the respective Service Group Executives.
3. HEALTH SGE REPORT
The Health SGE meeting had an exhaustive debate on the Government Ministers’ proposals before voting (29 to 5) to finalise the negotiations on the outstanding issues in the Heads of Agreement and consult members on the final package in a full membership ballot.
This would include advising members that if they rejected the final proposals they would need to take part in immediate and sustained industrial action.
A further meeting of the Health SGE should take place in early February to discuss the final document and give a recommendation
before going to ballot.
Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said:
“This week our health activists met and voted to finalise negotiations with the employers on the outstanding issues in the Heads of Agreement. But if negotiations should break down at any point, or if our members vote to reject the offer, our live ballot means we can still take strike action.
“This decision is an important stepping stone to a final agreement. Talks will now enter a final stage, due to conclude in the next few weeks. We will then consult our health worker members in a ballot. Pensions are such an important issue to our members and their families, it is only right that they get the final say on their future.”
4. LOCAL GOVERNMENT SGE REPORT
The Local Government SGE, meeting at the same time as the Health SGE, voted to continue negotiating with the employers over potential changes to the LGPS.
The SGE gave its backing to the framework proposals for talks that the union’s negotiators have secured since November 30.
Negotiations will now enter an intense phase, running until April 2012 – at which point members will be fully consulted on the final offer. Should talks fail, the union’s ballot remains live, leaving the option of more industrial action on the table.
Heather Wakefield, UNISON head of local government, said:
“This week, our elected activists representing members that save into the local government scheme, gave their unequivocal backing to the framework proposals for more negotiations that we have secured since November 30.
“We have agreed some important principles for the talks, including no change to contribution rates until 2014, and a commitment to protecting the pensions rights of workers that have been outsourced or are under threat of privatisation.
“Talks with the local government employers will now run until April 2012. Members will continue to be consulted at every stage – including when we have a final offer. But if talks should break down – our ballot means we can still take industrial action.”
There were also meetings of the smaller Service Group Executives: Community, Police and Justice, Water, Environment and Transport (WET), and Higher Education which also agreed to progress with talks.
I have attached copies of the successful Local Government SGE motion and the slightly amended Higher Education SGE motion.
5. REAL PENSIONS TIMEBOMB IS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR
UNISON has called on the government to take urgent action to protect private sector pensions, after a survey revealed a shocking number were being closed or watered down.
With two thirds of private sector workers already shut out of saving for their retirement, action would also protect taxpayers from a spiralling means tested benefits bill. UNISON estimates that taxpayers already face a bill of up to £15 billion for supporting the millions of private sector workers who have not not saved for their retirement – the real pensions timebomb.
Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:
“The real pensions timebomb is in the private sector. Already two thirds of these workers get nothing from their employers towards their pensions - this could cost the taxpayer billions in the future. The situation will spiral even further out of control, if more schemes are shut down and the taxpayer has to step in to cover the cost of supporting even more workers in their retirement.
“The government must take urgent action to make sure more schemes in the private sector are not lost or weakened. The new regulations coming in later this year will be too little too late for many who will still have to rely on the state in retirement – the minimum contributions are insufficient to give people enough to live on in their old age.”
*Survey by the Association of Consulting Actuaries.
Please circulate this information as appropriate and if you have any queries about the above or require further information please don't hesitate to contact me.
Stand up for Dignity and Respect in retirement and fight the threat of poverty in older age
Wales Protect Our Pensions Campaign Lead
UNISON Protect Our Pensions NHS briefing #1 1
August 2011 Issue no. 1
NHS Pensions under attack - Your Pension Needs You!
The Government plans to make sweeping changes to Public Sector Pensions across the UK.
This briefing outlines the Government proposals for changes to the NHS Pension Scheme
(NHSPS); what it will mean to you; current negotiations; what UNISON is doing and finally
what you can do.
What is the Government intending to do?
•They have already reduced the way NHSPS pensions will increase each year for
pensioners and those who leave the scheme before their retirement age
•They want members to contribute far more of their pay into the NHSPS
•They want to increase members retirement age for future service with the NHSPS or a successor scheme
•They want to replace the NHSPS with a new scheme by 2015 that will provide lower benefits for future service
•They are considering removing the pension protection members have if they are
transferred to the private or voluntary sector
•They are considering changing the state pension and getting scheme members to pay for it through increased National Insurance Contributions
The Government says that schemes like the NHSPS should be the gold standard and they want to avoid the race to the bottom that would see public sector workers retiring into poverty and depending on the state. This is already the case for anincreasing proportion of workers in the private sector who will be retiring into pensioner poverty.
But the Government proposals are so severe and unnecessary it is likely to make the NHSPS unsustainable. It will become unaffordable for a high proportion of the current members and will cause the very race to the bottom that the Government says it wants to avoid and could even increase the so called ‘burden’ on the tax payer.
UNISON Protect Our Pensions NHS briefing #1 2
What does it mean for me?
In plain terms the Government’s proposal will mean that you will:
Pay More, Work Longer and Get Less when you retire.
•Since April 2011 they now use the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) to calculate cost of living increases on pensions for pensioners and early leavers. This means if you are a pensioner your pension could be 8.5% less than if the change was not made by 2017.
•The Government intends to increase member contribution rates – for any one with
whole-time equivalent earnings over £15000 the increase could be between 25% and 70% more. Currently if you were earning say £25,000 a year you are now paying 6.5% of your pensionable pay that qualifies for tax relief, £1625 a year to the scheme. If these increases go through this could rise to 9.6% around £2400 a year by 2014/15.
•The Government want to change the way your pensions are calculated starting by
2015 and the new scheme would provide significantly inferior benefits compared to
the current scheme. Many members will struggle to accrue pensions that would take
them out of poverty in retirement. This may mean that instead of earning a pension of £417 per year on an annual salary of £25000 it may be as low as £250 a year for future service – that’s a 40% drop!
•The Government wants to increase retirement ages to match State Pension Age for all members in their proposed new scheme with no exceptions. Most members who
joined before 2008 retain the right to retire at 60. Many who had Mental Health
Officer status and Special Class Status in 1995 retain the right to retire at 55. This
means that if you were still to retire at say the age of 60yrs the benefits on future
service in the new scheme could be reduced by between 36% and 48%.
•The Government is currently reviewing protection given to members when they are outsourced to the private or voluntary sector and if this protection is removed it will mean employers getting away with just paying a derisory amount to an arrangement that does not guarantee any level of benefit at retirement.
•The Government is considering making members of pension schemes pay for increases in the State Pension if this happens members will be paying approximately an additional 1.4% National Insurance contributions on their pay and the employers
paying an additional 3.4%
THIS MEANS AN EXTRA 3% OF YOUR PAY, WHICH YOU LOOSE, GOES INTO THE CONDEM COFFERS
Why the Government’s proposals are wrong?
•The contribution increase is effectively a tax on members to pay for the banking crisis. Not a penny of the increase will be used or invested towards your pension scheme. The current NHSPS receives no top-up from the Government. In fact the scheme is “cash rich” and currently pays directly to the Treasury around £2 billion a year more than it costs to pay the pensions.
•The Government make much of people living longer however the contribution increase is around 3 times more than is needed to pay for increasing life expectancy. The
UNISON Protect Our Pensions NHS briefing #1 3
proposed employee contribution increase will go straight to the treasury. It will not
help the scheme. It is an unfair tax on health staff trying to save for their retirement.
•These huge increases in your contributions will almost certainly mean many will opt-out of the scheme ruining their pension expectations and making it more expensive for those that remain. If members opt out it will also undermine the future sustainability of the scheme which will add a further burden to the taxpayer.
•Many Statisticians agree the CPI does not reflect real inflation as for example housing costs including changes in interest rates are not included. It will not be enough to protect your standard of living in the future. UNISON is supporting legal and parliamentary action to oppose this change.
•Increasing future retirement ages for all to between 66 and 68 will mean an increasing proportion of members will burn out well before these ages and will be unable to retire in dignity.
•The NHSPS is not gold plated and a high proportion of members get very low pensions. Half the women pensioners receive a pension of less than £3500 a year.
•Reducing the level of future benefits risks the scheme being unable to provide a
benefit that will put most members above the poverty in retirement.
These are some of the arguments that UNISON is making to the government in continuing
Up until July negotiations were carried out centrally via the TUC and Government Treasury officials. The Trade Union side were keen to ensure that the central negotiations only established broad principles and that the detailed talks should take place at sectoral level. In a ministerial statement on 19 July it was announced that scheme specific discussions should begin. The talks are working to a government determined timetable which states that headline scheme details need to be in place by the end of October. NHS Trade Unions, NHS Employers and Department of Health (DH) Representatives have met 3 times since the announcement to move to sectoral talks. At the first meeting the Department of Health tabled a consultation document on the year 1 contribution increases. The consultation exercise ends on the 21stOctober and can be found at:
In response to the consultation document the NHS Trade Unions issued a statement saying:
“These proposals have been formulated without the agreement of NHS Staff Side, who do not
view the proposals as justified or necessary. An equivalent consultation could have emerged from
the cost sharing approach to funding the NHS Pension Scheme which was agreed in partnership in
2007. This approach would most likely have led to a requirement to increase contributions or
amend benefit structures and the NHS Staff Side would have participated fully in any resulting
discussions and consultation emerging from this process. Unfortunately this agreed procedure
has been unilaterally dismantled by Government.”
UNISON Protect Our Pensions NHS briefing #1 4
(Full statement can be found at:
UNISON and the other NHS Unions will be submitting responses to the consultation.
Further discussions have focused on working to the government issued timetable, the remit of
the sectoral talks and identifying areas where there can be meaningful and informed dialogue.
However progress has been slow and Staff Sides concerns on progress and the very short
timetable have been escalated to the central negotiations group which meets in September
What is UNISON doing about it?
The union is seeking to negotiate with the government to ensure your pensions remain fair and affordable. We are also making preparations to oppose any attempts by the government to impose changes that will make members worse off. The more we stand together in the workplace the greater chance we have of protecting decent pensions for people who work in the health service.
What can you do about it?
•Spread the word – tell your colleagues/friends what’s going on – for more
information/materials go to http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/protectour.asp
•Become a UNISON Pension Champion/Contact - for Information on what it involves
and how to sign up go to:
http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/popChampionsBecome.asp and here
•Make sure your membership details are up to date –
•If you aren’t a member you can join here -http://www.unison.org.uk/membership/
•Contact your local UNISON representative/Pension Champion or visit our website –
You can make a difference!
Organise for the best but prepare for the worst
Protect our pensions - NHS briefing Issue No2
Published: 5 October 2011
|The second in the series of NHS Pensions Briefings is a special edition focusing on Special Class/Mental
Health Officer (MHO) Status. The briefing shows the impact of the proposed NHS Pension reforms and includes examples of the reduction in pension through increased retirement age.
Protect our pensions - NHS briefing Issue No2