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."
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.
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.
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.
These will all be held over the lunchtime period - 12.30 to 1.30pm
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.”
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.
'Fight of our lives'
He said, "It's the fight of our lives. I know it's an over-used cliché, but make no mistake, this is it."
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!"
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, 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.
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
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.
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.
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
If you would be interested in becoming a pensions contact please contact the UNISON Resource Centre on 01224 620624 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and leave your contact details.
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, 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."
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.
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
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
In 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.
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.