Unison Promotes Divisive Pensions Deal

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Heather Wakefield, UNISON National Secretary, Local Government Service Group, last Wednesday rushed a circular out to branches.

This contained campaign materials to demand the same opportunist and divisive pensions deal for local government workers that the union leaders had just agreed for health, education and civil service workers.

This deal accepts a two tier workforce where current employees still retire at 60, but new employees have to work until 65.

New employees will also have pensions based on average salaries, not final salaries unless they pay huge extra contributions to make sure of a decent pension.

It also includes ‘flexibility’ for current employees, as the TGWU has admitted.

Both current and newly employed local government workers were left out of the deal and have been left to face the full government attack of upping the pensions age to 65 as well as ending final salary pensions in favour of average salary pensions.

Wakefield wrote: ‘This circular accompanies a range of new materials to help you campaign against the employers’ outrageous proposals for the Local Government Pension Scheme.’

She added: ‘We need to turn the heat up on our campaign to protect the LGPS (Local Government Pensions Scheme).’

Attempting to justify the split the union leaders have created amongst public sector workers she added: ‘The Public Services Forum agreement is a major achievement for NHS, Civil Service and teaching staff. LGPS members deserve the same protection and negotiating rights.

‘The next meeting with John Prescott and the Tripartite Committee is on 2nd November.’

As well as a model letter to MPs, Wakefield enclosed a campaign newsletter headed ‘PSF deal gives power to local government’s elbow’.

This boasted: ‘UNISON has played a key role in an historic deal reached by the Public Services Forum on pensions for health workers, civil servants and teachers.’

It claimed that ‘The deal, concluded yesterday, guarantees lifetime protection of their existing pension benefits and current retirement age of 60.

‘The Public Service Forum discussions held with Alan Johnson, Secretary of State at the DTI, have been chaired by Dave Prentis. The deal provides real ammunition to our negotiators dealing with the Local Government Pension Scheme.

‘UNISON’s Heather Wakefield, lead negotiator for the trade unions said: “There can now be no excuse for the employers or Government to proceed with the ridiculous proposals put forward on 22 September.

“The Government continually argues for joined-up working across the public services. Now we want joined-up pensions.”

‘The PSF package contains a framework of principles for individual scheme negotiations, which will start once consultation over the overall package has ended.

‘These will end on March 2006. Principles which will assist LGPS negotiations include:

• An ‘open, evidence-based approach’ to negotiations

• Scope for increasing take-up

• Robust costings of proposals

• ‘Adequate time’ for negotiations

• ‘Initial discussions’ to conclude by March 2006

• Scheme specific negotiations ‘should take account of the special mental and physical demands of many public sector jobs’

‘It also details agreed key features of new schemes. They will be:

• Defined benefit schemes, linked to individuals’ earnings

• Government to make one per cent of payroll available to improve benefits in new schemes

• Equality proofing

• Encouragement of take up amongst part time and lower paid workers

• Freedom from central direction over the type of scheme

• A reference age of 65 for new entrants after the implementation date, with provision in future

schemes for people to pay more into the scheme to retire at 60 (News Line emphasis)

‘These principles have been endorsed by the Cabinet and therefore the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.’

The newsletter repeated the claim that the divisive ‘PSF deal is a fantastic achievement which now must be applied to the Local Government Pension Scheme negotiations.’

In an attempt to sell the deal to local government members, it adds: ‘If not we will have teachers able to retire at 60 but lower paid school support staff working on until they are 65.

‘Fire fighters and police officers will be allowed to retire at 55 but our members working alongside them will have to work until they are 65.

‘The same will apply in probation, higher and further education.

‘We say: “Enough is enough. Now give equal treatment to LGPS members.”

‘Get campaigning now!’

The newsletter urges members to write to MPs and ‘sign the petition’.

The opportunist leaders of UNISON having split the public sector workforce are reduced to pleading with the government to give them the same opportunist deal for local government, with two tier pensions, leading to individual pensions and a two tier workforce.

Public sector workers must reject the opportunist selling off of the future of public sector workers.

There must be one final salary pension for all and a common retiring age of 60 for all public sector workers.

The divisive two tier workforce policy and deal must be ripped up in favour of industrial action to defend final salary pensions and a retirement age of 60 for all.

This requires replacing the opportunist leaders in UNISON and the rest of the public sector trade unions with the revolutionary leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

Join the WRP today!