Aberdeenshire UNISON

Pensions RallyOur pensions under attack
Pay more - Work longer - Get less

Vote YES to protect our pensionsUpdate 3rd Nov 2011
UNISON members vote yes to strike

Members of UNISON, the UK’s largest union voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action to protect their pensions.

Protect our pensionsThe union balloted members including nurses, teaching assistants, social workers, care assistants, paramedics, police staff, school dinner ladies, probation workers and cleaners.

Yes: 245,358
No: 70,253 Results

Local Government (including Scotland)
Yes 171,428
No 54,500
76% in favour – Turnout 30%

NHS (including Scotland)
Yes 73,930
No 15,753 82% in favour – Turnout 25%

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said: “The decisive yes vote in the ballot, reflects the deep concern that our members have over Government ministers’ proposals for their pensions.

“Yesterday’s statement in Parliament was a marked improvement on earlier proposals.

“But, it is important to understand that the statement has to be translated into offers in the scheme specific talks. We still have had no offer in those negotiations, where such an offer can legitimately be made.

“We support the TUC day of action on 30 November, but will be negotiating right up to then and beyond to get a fair deal for our members.”

Senior lay officials of the union are meeting throughout the afternoon to discuss the latest Government statement on pensions and to decide what action to take as a result of the strike ballot.

Separate figures
Scotland Local Government
Yes 21,799
No 7881

NHS Scotland
Yes 13,236
No 1,880


Update 10th October 2011
Vote YESBranch Pensions Meetings - come along and hear why you should vote YES

As UNISON's pensions ballot gets underway tomorrow, 11th October, the Branch has set up pension meetings, joint with Grampian Health and Grampian Police, and Aberdeen City.

Members and non-members are welcome to come along and hear why UNISON is urging us all to protect our pensions by voting YES in the ballot which closes on 3rd November.

The dates for these are:

  • Monday 17 October 12 -2 Stonehaven Council Chamber
  • Thursday 20 October 12 – 2 – Huntly, Linden Centre basement room
  • Friday 21 October 12 – 2 Inverurie Gordon House
  • Monday 24 October 1230 – 1430 – Peterhead Council Chamber
  • Tuesday 25 October 12-2 Macduff Town Hall
  • Wednesday 26 October 4 – 6 Woodhill House, Aberdeen
  • Thursday 27 October 12 – 2 Fraserburgh Leisure Centre

Click here for a Vote YES poster

Click here for a Pensions Meetings Poster

Inez Teece, Branch Secretary said, "It would be great if as many of you as possible could get along to these meetings.

"It is vitally important that you do everything in your power to get your colleagues along too. The threat to our pensions is very great, and comes on top of pay freezes and job cuts. Yet again, public service workers are being made to pay for a crisis they did not create whilst the banks pay out billions in bonuses."

There will also be a Pensions Briefing Session for Branch Officers, stewards and activists in the UNISON Resource Centre on Thursday 13th October.


Update 11th October 2011
Why we must vote YES for action on pensions - Some Qs and As

(with thanks to the City of Edinburgh Branch)

Will a one-day strike save our pensions?
The one day strike is a start. General Secretary Dave Prentis has been clear that it will take more than that but it will be a carefully planned strategy. The one day is an essential kick-off to this.

The key element is that a yes vote will give our negotiators more strength. The Government so far has not been taking talks seriously.

A Yes Vote would mean:

  • We send a powerful message to government
  • We show solidarity with all public sector unions balloting or preparing for industrial action on November 30th
  • We give negotiators new strength to support our demands

Is there a ready-reckoner to see how much I'll lose out of my pension?
It is difficult to show calculations for pension because people's situations vary. But some figures are clear....

Less benefits due to RPI to CPI move: Because of the change from RPI to CPI, the average public service pensioner loses £117 a year and that is cumulative. Even Lord Hutton conceded there would be a 15% loss in benefits.

Career Average instead of Final Salary: Plans to move to a 'career average' pension instead of final salary could see a huge drop in your pension. That involves:

  • Step 1 - Earn % of salary as pension for each year you work
  • Step 2 –Then “re-valued” every year until you retire by a specified Index – Hutton recommended average wages
  • Step 3 – Add up all the “re-valued” pots at retirement and this is your final pensionable pay that is used to calculate your pension.

To get roughly equal to what people get now, the pension would have to accrue at about 1/55th of salary. Currently the Scottish scheme accrues at 1/60th. The government plans suggest somewhere beteween 1/65th of salary to 1/100th meaning much less in retirement while paying much more.

Work longer, pay more and get less! Pension age increases on top mean you'll pay more, work longer and get less!

Plus: If you are in the groups facing the 3% rise in contributions on the average 6% people pay, it actually means 50%. If you currently pay £100 a month, you would have to stump up another £50 - and that will not even go into the ponsion fund, it will go straight to the government! (This doesn not apply at this stage to Local Government only in Scotland)


Update 5th Oct 2011
Vote YESStop the Great Pensions Robbery - UNISON meets to plan Scotland's biggest ever strike ballot

Members of UNISON’s Scottish Council - the decision making body for Scotland’s largest union in public services - meet today, Wednesday 5th Oct to plan the biggest ever industrial action ballot in Scottish history.

The vast majority of UNISON’s 165,000 members in Scotland will be asked, at the same time as the rest of the union's 1.1 million members throughout the UK – to vote YES to protect their pensions.

The decision to ballot on industrial action was not one that was taken lightly – but members are determined to protect their pensions.

Large increases in pension contributions are intended in the Health Service and all Public Sector pensions are being seriously devalued by a change from calculating future raises from Retail Price Index (Retail Price Index) to Consumer Price Index (CPI). This change will devalue future pensions by up to 15%.

In addition the threat of a raised retirement age means many face a triple whammy of paying more, working longer and getting less. Currently the average pension in local government is £4,000, dropping to just £2,800 for women - less than £56 a week. In health, the average pension is £7,500 - higher because it includes doctors and consultants, but for women it is still around £3,000.

In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote the campaign of industrial action will begin with a 1 day strike on Nov 30th. Other unions with members in the public sector are also expected to strike on that day.

Mike Kirby

UNISON’s Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby said: “There is a great deal of anger amongst our membership at these attacks on the pensions that we have earned - which are modest enough without being delayed or downgraded. Particularly as all of the money raised through these unfair measures will be used by the Government, not to sustain pensions, but as part of George Osborne’s plans to make ordinary people pay down the deficit run up to rescue the banks.

“Our members are already dealing with a pay freeze, redundancies, cuts in pay and conditions and cuts in the services they deliver. This attack on pensions is the final straw. We need to take a stand across the UK to say enough is enough."


Update 28th Sept 2011
Vote YESVote YES to protect your pensions

Look out for your ballot paper asking you to vote for industrial action to protect your pension - your retirement is at stake. We are asking you to vote YES because proposed changes to your pension scheme simply aren’t fair.

The Branch will be joining with local branches to re-organise the postponed pensions roadshows so watch out for dates and come along and hear more.

UNISON Scotland's latest Pensions' Briefing tells you more about the implications for the Local Government Pensions Scheme following the Scottish Spending Review. Although the Scottish Government will impose 50% additional contributions on our colleagues in Health, because the UK Government will dock their budget if they don't, there are no similar consequences for Local Government staff. However, this is only one aspect of the attack on our pensions.

Click here for further information and campaign materials in the UNISON Scotland site


Update Sept 2011
Roadshows postponed

The branch has decided to postpone the planned Pensions Roadshows.This is to allow us to assess the situation as it relates to the Local Government Pensions Scheme following the SNP government's Scottish Spending Review.

Click here for UNISON Scotland's Briefing on the Scottish Spending Review


Update Sept 2011
Branch Pensions Roadshows - Time to stand up and be counted

As UNISON and the other big public service and teaching unions call, at the TUC, for a nationwide Day of Action to defend our pensions, the Branch has organised a series of Roadshows to tell members and activists about the real threats to our pensions.

  • 27 Sept 2011 Stonehaven Council Chamber
  • 29 Sept 2011 Huntly Linden Centre (Basement Room)
  • 3 Oct 2011 Aberdeen Council Chamber Woodhill
  • 5 Oct 2011 Fraserburgh Leisure Centre
  • 7 Oct 2011 Peterhead Council Chamber Arbuthnot House
  • 10 Oct 2011 Macduff Town Hall (to be confirmed)
  • 10 Oct 2011 Inverurie Gordon House Council Chamber

These will all be held over the lunchtime period - 12.30 to 1.30pm

Click here for a poster

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair said, "We are calling on all members and non-members to come to these meetings. We cannot emphasise strongly enough the threat to our pensions and the attacks that we face.

"This government wants us to pay 50% more to our pensions - not to go into pension funds but to go straight into the treasury, to pay for the deficit created by bailing out the banks. And all this at a time when banks are paying out £14 billion in bonuses.

"Yet again ordinary people are paying the price of a recession we did not cause, while the rich and the powerful milk the system and take vast profits," slammed Kate.

"And it is not just us who are suffering. Our children will, for the first time in generations, be worse off than their parents. These attacks on our pensions hit younger people much harder.

"It has come to the point where we have got to stand up and be counted, not just for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren.”


Update 14th Sept 2011
Unions call 'national day of action' over pensions

In the "biggest trade union mobilisation for a generation" UNISON and other public service unions have called on a nationwide "day of action" for 30 November.

Strikes, rallies and other events will be held in protest at the government's decision to increase workers' pension contribution payments.

UNISON, along with Unite, the GMB and the Fire Brigades' Union - is already balloting over co-ordinated industrial action and 10 other unions are also looking to hold a vote on strikes.

The call came at the TUC on Wednesday 14th Sept as its annual conference came to a close.

Dave Prentis
Dave Prentis speaking at the TUC

'Fight of our lives'
Proposing a motion backing mass strikes to the TUC conference, Dave Prentis, our General Secretary, revealed he was giving 9,000 employers formal notice that 1.1 million UNISON members would be balloted.

He said, "It's the fight of our lives. I know it's an over-used cliché, but make no mistake, this is it."

Click here for more on Dave's speech

Ian McDonald, Branch Pensions Champion said, "Unions and the government have been in talks over pension contribution rises since the beginning of the year. These rises will mean that pension fund members will pay 50% more in contributions to their pensions.

"And the extra money will not even go into our pension funds - it will go straight into the treasury. This is nothing less than a tax on public service workers to bail out the banks."

He added, "Ministers have said that the change - scheduled for next April - is needed to make schemes sustainable in the face of an ageing population but this is not true. Hutton amongst others has already said that pension funds are sustainable and will reduce as a proportion of GDP from next year.

"The government must find another way to tackle the deficit caused by the banks. A way that doesn't increase inequality and doesn't further penalise ordinary working people,women and our young people.

"The banks are back to business as usual with huge bonuses of £14 billion this year alone, while the rest of us are paying the price," said Ian.

He called on members to vote YES in a strike ballot. "We need to tell this government that enough is enough!"


Update Sept 2011
Scottish position - Government start talks on pensions and can protect them

The Scottish Government can choose to protect our pensions. The UK Government's strategy is clear: they want us to pay more, work longer and get less. However, pension regulation is devolved to the Scottish Parliament - so MSPs have a choice to make.

UNISON is currently engaged in discussions with the Scottish Government and is calling on MSPs to reject the UK plans and to protect quality pensions in Scotland.

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP initiated discussions with public service pension stakeholders in Scotland including trade unions and employer organisations.

This follows the broad discussions at a UK level on the UK Government's response to the Hutton Commission recommendations and proposals to increase employee pension contributions by 50% (3.2% of salary).

The Scottish Government's approach is outlined in the Cabinet Secretary's statement to Parliament. This states that increased pension contributions will place an unnecessary burden on public service workers who are already suffering from pay restraint and rising living costs.

Ian McDonald

Ian McDonald, Branch Pensions Champion said, "While this support is welcome, public service pension regulation is a devolved issue and therefore Scottish Ministers have decisions to make on the way ahead in Scotland."

The discussions at present focus on the contribution increases in the context of the Scottish Spending Review that is due to be published later this month. The Hutton recommendations are primarily an issue for individual Scottish pension schemes. Scottish Ministers have some constraints on what they can do. The main challenge is financial because the UK Government has in effect docked the NHS and Teachers contributions from the Scottish budget. This means the Scottish Government is facing a £240m shortfall by 2014.

The LGPS, Police and Fire schemes are not scored against the budget. However, the Scottish Government could raise an additional £165m from members in these schemes, if they followed the UK Government's expectation that contributions should increase in these schemes as well.

"The Scottish Government describes this as an "opportunity cost". We would describe it as a "Scottish pensions tax" because there is no requirement to "tax" Scottish local government staff," Ian added.

The other constraint is that the Scottish Government has only limited powers to make changes to the NHS scheme. It has much more flexibility in the local government scheme because any changes do not require the approval of the UK government.

"At present discussions are simply looking at a range of options for dealing with the financial consequences. These range from the treatment of different schemes, through financial options to timescales. UNISON's position remains that this is simply a tax on our members as not one penny of the cash raised will go into the pension schemes," said Ian.


Pensions update 10th August 2011
No concessions on pensions but further talks at UK level

Public service unions, including UNISON have agreed to extend the negotiations with the government on public sector pensions.

However, the TUC unions have made it clear to the government that whilst they are prepared to keep talking, they have not agreed to or accepted any of the Government's objectives, nor the change in indexation from RPI to the lower CPI.

Further negotiations will take place centrally and UNISON has also entered into scheme specific talks.

However, Dave Prentis, General Secretary has slammed as "totally unhelpful" the tactics of the Government of releasing their bargaining position "as though it is set in stone" and has warned that if this is the case, there is no point in continuing negotiations.

Dave said, "Our aim is to get a final offer so that members can see whether or not their pension schemes will be maintained or reduced. We expect these talks to be serious and any proposed changes must be based on clear evidence and not simply an excuse to find money to pay off the country's deficit."

He added that both the local government and the health schemes are cash rich and were renegotiated a few years ago to make them sustainable and affordable, with longevity costs paid by the employee and not the employer.

"Making people pay more and work longer for a smaller pension is unnecessary, unjust and unworkable. People will leave the schemes if they become too expensive and they will collapse," warned Dave, pointing out that pensioners will then end up on means tested benefits at an added cost to taxpayers.


Pensions update 20 July 2011
Fighting for our pensions

UNISON's pensions summit hears the latest on talks with the government as these are extended to October, while the union gears up for action. Click here to see report in full.

Pensions update July 2011
North East's public services join together to protect members’ pensions - Come along to the Pensions Meeting on 14th July

There will be a Mass Meeting of Trade Unions on Pensions on Thursday 14 July 2011 5-7pm at Aberdeen Beach Ballroom. This meeting will be open to all members from all our North branches and other trade unions, as well as to the public.

Click here for a flyer

Public service workers from across the North East will join together to discuss attacks on their pensions and plans to defend them. UNISON, Scotland’s largest union in public services, together with Unite, GMB and EIS have called the mass meeting on Thursday, July 14, to outline plans to protect members’ pension rights.Staff from north-east NHS, police support staff, teachers and local council employees will all be in attendance.

The UK Government is proposing to increase pension contributions by 50 per cent, raise the retirement age and change the way pensions are indexed from RPI to CPI – resulting in a cut of 15 per cent. However, as pension regulation is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, MSPs can choose to reject the UK plans and protect quality pensions in Scotland.

Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary
Mike Kirby Scottish Secretary

Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary will be the UNISON speaker at the Meeting. Individual members will also be speaking up to dispel the myths around “gold plated pensions”.

Mike said: “UNISON is in discussions with both the UK and Scottish governments about its unfair and unnecessary changes to our members’ pensions which would see them working longer, paying more and getting less. These changes amount to nothing more than a pensions’ tax on public service workers, who are being left to pay the price for bailing out the bankers.

“These proposals would make saving for retirement unaffordable and out of reach for those we most depend on to clean our hospitals, care for the sick and elderly and teach our children.

“The Scottish Government has a choice to make and it’s a simple one; reject the UK Government’s unfair attack on the pensions of hard-working people and protect quality pension provision for Scotland’s public service workers.”

If you would like to tell us your story please contact Lynn Duncan at the Aberdeen Resource Centre on 01224 620624.

Please circulate this information as widely as possible. The flyer can be circulated to colleagues in other unions as they are also participating in event.

See below to find out more about the attacks on our pensions.


Pensions update April 2011
Pay more - Work longer - Get less

Our Branch Pensions' Champion, Ian McDonald attended a Scottish Pensions meeting and heard an overview of the key issues facing UNISON members and the importance of getting organised at all levels.

We face a number of attacks on Scottish pension schemes including:

  • Change to the way pension increases are calculated - Retail to Consumer Price Index that will cut average pensions by at least 15%.
  • Retirement age increases that don't reflect the demands on many public service workers.
  • Abolishing pension protection for workers who are forced to transfer to another employer outside the public sector.
  • A complete overhaul of the state pension that will impact on public service schemes.
  • Changes to fund governance and cost sharing provisions with employers.
  • 50% increase in member contributions - up 3.2% - which will go straight into the Treasury

Ian McDonald said, "We are especially concerned about the proposed 3.2% increase in member contributions. That's a 50% increase.

"This is simply a tax to pay back government debts that were raised to bail out the banks. None of the money will go into the schemes - it will go straight into the government's coffers - and it threatens the whole system if members opt-out."

"Overall the pension changes mean 'Pay more - work longer - get less!"

Ian warns, “Make no mistake - our pensions, as well as our jobs and services, are under attack, from this Tory-led coalition government which aims to make working people pay for the greed of their banker friends who caused the crash.

“But let the coalition government in Westminster not be mistaken either - we will fight to defend our pensions, as we will fight to defend our jobs and our public services.”

To do this, we need to get organised at Branch level. We need

  • pension contacts in workplaces who can talk to members about the attack on our pensions.
  • a communications strategy that explains the issues to members and the public using a range of media.
  • make sure that member contact details are correct in readiness for an industrial action ballot if required.
  • a recruitment campaign to strengthen membership density.

If you would be interested in becoming a pensions contact please contact the UNISON Resource Centre on 01224 620624 or email aberdeenshire@unison.co.uk and leave your contact details.


Pensions update March 2011

Government will use Hutton report to raid our pensions

The long awaited report by Lord Hutton on public service pension schemes was published on 11th March. As expected he is recommending long term structural reform of the pension schemes that more than one in four Scots depend on.

Ian McDonald

Ian McDonald, Branch Treasurer and pensions contact said, "The Chancellor's decision to use Lord Hutton's report as cover for 50% contribution increases has fatally undermined his recommendations.

"The £375m raised from Scottish public service workers will go straight into the Treasury - not the pension schemes. This is little more than a tax on scheme members and will result in further opt-outs from the scheme, placing new burdens on welfare benefits."

He added, "This is an attack on one of our most important terms and conditions. It is vital that we are well organised at all levels. We need to build our strength to defend our pensions from branch level up, and ensure all our members understand the impact of changes to our pension schemes."

Dave Prentis

General Secretary, Dave Prentis, has summed up UNISON's reaction:

"Whatever the Hutton report may say about fairness, the Government will use it as a Trojan horse to raid the pensions of hard working public sector workers. Pensions that our members have paid into year in year out and which are fair and affordable.

"In fact, even before the report today, the Government announced they were increasing employee contributions by 50%. There is a lot of nonsense talked about public sector pensions - they are not gold plated. The average is very low - in local government, the average is just over £4,000, falling to £2,800 for women. Asking workers to work longer for less is simply not an option.

"We want to talk to the Government about their response as a matter of urgency. But I am sending out a clear message to our 1.4 million members warning them that industrial action is now one big step closer."

Scottish Pensions Meeting
The next meeting for UNISON branches will be held on Wednesday 30 March 2011 and will focus on the final Hutton Report and the implications for both the Scottish LGPS and NHS schemes. It is expected that there will be some indication of how the UK government proposes to implement the Hutton Report in the UK budget on 23 March.

Click here for more information on UNISON Scotland's plans to fight these attacks on our pensions


Pensions update Feb 2011

Local Government Pension Scheme faces new threats

Members may be aware from the press and media that the Tory LibDem government have made and are planning changes to our pensions that will leave us all worse off.

RPI to CPI will leave us 15% worse off in our retirement
Not content with increasing the pension age, the UK Government has announced that it will change the indexing of public sector pension increases each year from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The effect of the change is likely to cut pension benefits by at least 15%.

The Scottish Government, despite holding a consultation on changes to the Scottish regulations, have decided to implement this change without waiting for the consultation responses. UNISON has prepared a case for legal opinion and will keep branches advised of progress.

The government has decided not to apply this principle to private sector schemes because, in the words of the Pensions Minister, "we want people to have confidence and trust in their pensions, we will not be re-writing the rules of their pension schemes". Apparently it's OK to rewrite the rules for public service workers. The phrase "pension apartheid? springs to mind!

Increased pension contributions
The UK government now plans to increase employees' pension contributions by 3.2%. This money will not go into the pension fund but will go straight into the government's coffersallowing them to grab £2.8bn from pension contributions.

The Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme is a devolved matter for the Scottish Government. However, the UK Government says that they have included this saving in the Scottish budget under the Barnett formula and therefore there would be a financial cost to the Scottish Government if they did not increase contributions. This would mean around £375m being raided from Scotland's budget, including £140m from local government and further £140m from health.

The Scottish Government has issued a consultation paper on this issue and UNISON has responded through the STUC giving arguments against this move. Click here for details.


Delays to state pensions
Barbara's storyIn addition to the attacks on the LGPS, David Cameron's government have gone back on their promise in the Coalition Agreement, and are delaying the state pension for thousands of women who are in their 50s at the moment.

It will mean that when they come to retire in their 60s, thousands will have to work for up to two years longer.

Sign Barbara's petition to say no to these cuts.

This broken promise is unfair, unnecessary and unacceptable. Almost 5 million people will be affected by the Tory-led government’s new plans; in particular 500,000 women will now have to work for a year or longer, 33,000 will have to work for two years longer before they can claim their state pension.

These women have very little time to prepare for losing over £10,000 of the state pension income that they have worked hard for.