Monday, January 15, 2007

Fremantle workers and Relatives campaign

Tomorrow night John McDonnell MP addresses the Fremantle Workers and Relatives Public meeting at Hendon Town Hall 16 January 2007

John has openly 'thrown his hat into the ring' as a contender for the Leadership of the Labour party. Whilst senior Labour politicians avoid a possible leadership election (and fight over the meaningless role of deputy leader) John McDonnell has been campaigning up and down the country speaking to trade unions, public meetings outlining his view for the Labour party.

What is key is the debate within the Labour party is outlining the future. For UNISON members it is a crucial debate and one in which UNISON should be leading as Public Services are under attack under Blair’s government.

John will be speaking about the mass lobby of Parliament next week ( 23 January 2007) in conjunction with the TUC and UNISON where the Fremantle workers and relatives campaign will be given a national exposure.

Support your colleagues come along tomorrow evening.

More on the New Look Pension Scheme

Barnet UNISON members please note on Friday 12 Janaury UNISON London region had a Pension briefing.

On the subject of Pensions contributions it became clear that a significant number of our members would be discriminated against if the current formula is passed unopposed. For details please see example below.

What was explained at the pensions briefing was that while the first £12000 would be at the lower rate of 5.5% this would be pro rataed for part time workers who would work out the proportion of the salary that will be deducted at the higher rate by working out what the full time salary would be and applying the proportions to the part time salary. If a worker earns 12000 and works exactly half the working week their full time equivalent salary would be £24000 so that 50% or £6000 will be deducted at 5.5% and the other 50% £6000 would be at 7.5%.This is appalling discrimination of part time workers who are mainly women and can not understand why this was not consider a “deal breaker” as they described a number of points in the new scheme. What the negotiators appeared not to have even taken account off is the effect on huge number of term time only workers, whether full time (during the working weeks) or not. A quick calculation seems to leave teaching assistant earning £12000 working 25 hours a week (which is about normal hours) and term time only paying nearly £100 more to pension scheme then some one earning £12000 on a full time basis.

Quite clearly it is important for members and branches feedback concerns about the proposals.

Do you have a view?

Please email the branch or post a message on our BLOG.

Pensions BLOG update 15 January 2007

Barnet UNISON sent out last week the latest update from UNISON HQ.

I am attaching a briefing on negotiations from Glenn Kelly Local Government NEC member.

Report from Special Service Group Executive held on 10th January

On Wednesday 10th January the local government executive voted (16-5) to accept a proposal from the leadership to give the government yet more time, to come up with the goods, before deciding whether to launch the strike ballot or not. This is despite the fact that no one argued that we are near reaching a good deal and they recognised that some of the proposals have got worse since 23rd November.

We now have to await the outcome of talks and a decision on balloting is now postponed until the 8th February. This means that the earliest date a strike ballot would start is 8th March with a strike on 26th April at the earliest. Despite the fact that the government are still intent on laying the regulations by the 10th of March so they will become law on the 1st April 2007.

If it were the case that the government’s draft regulations were clearly making concessions to us, this may have been a reasonable tactic but the truth is that the current proposals are not a step forwards and in parts things are getting worse.

We should be exerting as much pressure as possible now to force more from the government and be ready to strike if they don’t back down. That is why I proposed we move to a ballot now and not wait any longer.

After the government minister made his announcement on the 23rd of November, Jean Geldart (elected head of local government) wrote, “Chris Tansley (Vice Chair) and I have had a discussion about where the government proposals leave us, particularly over protection but also the contribution increases and unless anything changes before now and the 4th December we are minded to propose that Unison should ballot for strike action”. If that were the case then we have the right to ask what has changed in the last five weeks of negotiations, have things moved in our direction or not, are we winning, losing or standing still?

Take a look at what is now proposed on the key issues and judge for yourself.

Protection of the 85yr rule

The truth is we have not secured a single extra days protection than was on offer on 23rd November.

So that anyone under the age of 50 (who would meet 85yr rule) will have to accept losing the right to retire at 60 or face a massive cut in their pension and they will be asked to pay more for this privilege (if they earn £16,000 a year or more).

The new Unison bulletin graphically demonstrates what this will mean.

For instance a 45yr old member with 15yrs existing service earning £20,000 a year will lose a £1000 a year in pension or £11k in lump sum, if they want to retire at 60. They will also have pay £60 more in pension contributions.

In order to get the same benefit, as they are entitled to now, they would have to work an extra two years!

A 35yr old member with 15yrs existing service earning £20,000 a year will lose a £1500 a year in pension or £20k in lump if they want to retire at 60. They will also have to pay £60 a year more in pension contributions.

If they want to get what they get now they would have to work an extra two and half years.

These examples show that even with the benefit of the 1/60th scheme tens of thousands of our members will be significantly worse off.

Some may say that not all members would meet the 85yr rule criteria, which is true, but UNISON previously produced figure showing that over 60% of women members of the scheme and 70% of men would meet the 85yr rule requirements so will lose out.

Even a member who doesn’t qualify for the 85yr rule would be no better off if those chose to go at 60. But would have to pay more and have worse rights in relation to redundancy act.

We should not forget that every health worker, teacher and civil servant has retained their right to retire at 60 without loss. If its good enough for them then its good enough for us.

Contribution rates

They are exactly the same as was stated on 23rd Nov, Effectively anyone earning £16k a year or more will pay more.

There is no protection for those manual workers on the existing 5% rate and they will have to pay the higher rates.

In fact the position is now worse than stated in November. Those part time low paid members who thought that they’d get a small reduction will face an actual increase as the UNISON bulletin points out.

Under the current proposals those who are part time will have contributions calculated on a formula based on whole time equivalent pay and then pro rata. For example, if someone worked half time (in a post paying £24k for a full time post holder) so there earnings were £12,000 their contribution would not be 5.5% on the whole amount but 5.5% on one half of there pay i.e. £6,000 and 7.5% on the other £6,000.

In this case they would end up paying more than they do now so the very people who were supposed to gain from the lower contribution rate will end up paying more. (8% more in this example).


Currently if you are made redundant and are 50 or over, your pension is paid as of right and cannot be refused or reduced for early payment. In fact in many boroughs members get added years.

After 2010 the age you can take your pension in these circumstances will now rise to 55yrs. (immediately for new members joining the scheme).

As if this were not bad enough under the new proposals, If you’re made redundant or leave for efficiency reasons after 1st April 2008, the employer will have the right to refuse to release your pension.

Even if they agree to let you have your pension, the employer will be legally bound to consider reducing your pension by an early retirement factor for early payment.

How many of us would be confident that their employers, if given the chance to save even more money when making redundancies wont grab it with both hands.

These proposals have never even been raised with the unions before and are a sign that the government is taking the P*%@ out of us.

This proposal alone could affect more people that the attack on the 85year rule.

Ill health proposals
This is an area where there is some improvement, particulary for those members who are too ill to work, but cant prove that they will be unfit until 65 and at the moment get no pension. (Often stress depression cases).

However you will now have to show that you are unfit for “any gainful employment” and not just in local government, as opposed to the current position of being unfit for your job or a comparable post.

Future Risk sharing
The government wants a built in process every three years that any increased costs to the scheme will be shared.

In the health service a deal has been struck which means that any additional costs in the scheme after 2008 will be met entirely by members of the scheme. I.e. their contribution rates could go up again or they could lose some of their existing benefits.

This is potentially a recipe for the government and the employer to come back for even more attacks every three years.

It is vital that all members know what is still at risk and that all sides of the union are still saying that if there are not enough concessions by the 7th February then the strike ballot is on.
Glenn Kelly
Local Government NEC member