The Branch has a new pensions champion, James Mulholland, who is also a steward in Gordon House. James attended the meeting of all Pensions Champions on 5th June and has updated the Branch.
"Following on from the vote to accept the new Local Government Pensions Scheme in Nov 2013, talks have continued on the new regulations and governance of the scheme.
"The main item of business at the June meeting was to discuss the Draft Heads of Agreement on pension’s governance in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and the related UNISON structures. There was also going to an update on the implementation of the new scheme in April 2015.
"The new scheme gives the trade unions and UNISON in particular a fantastic opportunity to take control of how and where our pension contributions are invested due to changes in scheme governance.
"There will be equal numbers of employer and trade union representatives on the governance boards.
"Currently, throughout the United Kingdom, public sector pension funds have over 160 Billion Pounds invested to provide your pension when you retire, currently, we have no say in what these funds are invested in. For example approximately 1.5% of this money is invested in PFI projects, shares within the fund are held in companies such as G4S, Capita, Serco and other companies which are taking jobs out of the public sector.
"Once these new governance boards are set up, we will be able to influence where investments are made, put pressure on the boards of companies we are invested in and ask questions of fund managers and investment companies. A recent report estimated savings of 600 million pounds per annum could be made across the UK in investment charges with no difference made to fund performance.
"Exciting times ahead for pensions (something you never thought you’d hear regarding pensions!!) and you can be assured that Unison will be at the forefront of these changes looking after your interests.
The meeting was run by Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser, Bargaining & Campaigns) and Stephen Smellie, Scottish Vice-Convener, who are the UNISON negotiators on the LGPS.
"Dave Watson updated the meeting on the progress of implementation of the new scheme and explained that currently, the legislation enacting the new scheme has not gone through the Scottish Parliament, as there have been staff shortages within the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) which has delayed the drafting of the legislation for the Scottish Parliament.
"Dave reassured the meeting that this is a formality as the scheme has been agreed by all sides, Trade Unions, Local and national government, and therefore should go through parliament and be voted into law in the Autumn.
"The delay is causing problems for the local pension schemes as they are currently unable to give out accurate pension forecasts as their systems have not been updated to incorporate the new scheme rules from 01/04/15 but this should be resolved within the next few months once the legislation is passed by the Scottish Parliament.
"Discussion then turned to the new governance structure within the new scheme. Full details of the governance structure can be found here –
"UNISON will be keeping you informed over the coming months about the upcoming changes through briefings in the workplace and via written information, keep an eye out for these.
Here are some links to useful websites for pensions information:
North East Scotland Pension Fund (your scheme administrators)
Unison Scotland’s Pensions Information
Pensions Advisory Service (independent government body)
DWP (for checking on your retirement age and amount of state pension)
Scottish Public Pensions Authority
"If you have any questions regarding pensions, please don’t hesitate to contact me through the resource centre – 01224 620624. Pensions can often seem complicated but if you are unsure of anything, please ask.
"I’ll keep you posted."
James Mulholland, Steward, Gordon House.