Monday, December 19, 2011

LGPS BRANCH BRIEFING – 19 DECEMBER 2011

This is the text of a circular received from UNISON HQ this afternoon;

Since 30 November the Local Government Association (LGA - the local authority employers' organisation) has moved quickly to establish some consensus over the direction of travel within the LGPS and establish some joint principles and a timetable for negotiation, starting in January.

The government and the LGA have accepted that the LGPS is different from the other public sector pension schemes because it is a funded scheme and has assets of around £140 billion at current prices.

There are some key points of agreement between the LGPS unions and the LGA:

 No change until 2014 - avoiding any change before the 2013 valuation

 Prevention of opt outs and maximising of membership to keep the scheme sustainable

 Independent and robust equality proofing at every stage

 Adequate time for unions and employers to consult at key stages of the process

There have been NO negotiations on the detail of future contributions or the design of the new scheme, though they will start in earnest in January, with a view to Regulations being laid in time for the 2013 valuation.

We have had to have Chatham House negotiations between ourselves and the LGA, while trying to get the Government on board, although Chairs of relevant UNISON Committees have been consulted over developments.

We will not know for sure that we can proceed until Eric Pickles as SOS gives the all-clear, which we may not be until Tuesday. We are optimistic that he will say yes and also that CLG will agree to suspend the statutory consultation underway on contribution increases.

As soon as we have agreement and a public announcement is made, the principles and timetable will be sent to you.

There will be a briefing for SGEs covered by the LGPS on 10 January, alongside the Pension Summit, when SGE members within the LGPS will be able to respond to the principles and timetable and agree the next steps.

Our responsibility as UNISON members is to seek the views of as many members as possible and communicate these to our SGE members so that they can take an informed decision on our behalf. Further information will be circulated about this in the near future.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lambeth Council backs pensions fight

Lambeth Councillors last week voted by a majority of more than two to one that the Council "supports local government employees in defending their pension scheme" and voted down by a similar margin an amendment that asked the trade unions not to take strike action.

This reinforces the message from the Council management on the intranet that; "On 30 November many people across the public sector are likely to be on strike and this is likely to apply to many colleagues across Lambeth. Staff who support industrial action will lose pay, but the council will take no other action against staff who strike as part of this national dispute."

Whilst it is never an easy decision to strike, and none of us can afford to lose money, the reality is that we stand to lose far more if we do not strike. As Lambeth Council employees you can be certain that you will face no adverse consequences, other than the loss of pay, if you strike on 30 November. The Council supports our campaign in defence of our pensions.
The branch urges every UNISON member not only to strike, but to prepare to come in and help us on the day with picket lines and demonstrations. The more active and effective we are on 30 November the sooner we can bring this dispute to a satisfactory conclusion and protect our pensions.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It's YES - and we are not alone!

UNISON members have now voted to take strike action, beginning on 30 November, to protect our pensions from the attacks of the Coalition Government. Our ballot involved 1.1 Million members, a strong force in our own right. The overall YES vote is 78%!

However, we stand alongside more than twenty other trade unions

General unions

The GMB are balloting members in health and local government – their ballot closes on 16 November.

UNITE the Union are also balloting their public service members – their ballot closes on 17 November.

Civil Service unions

Civil Service trade union, PCS, having already balloted their members, are proposing to call strike action on 30 November.

The smaller civil service union Prospect are balloting now with a closing date of 14 November.

The senior civil service union, the First Division Association (FDA) are also balloting for action on 30 November.

The Northern Irish trade union NIPSA are also balloting for action on 30 November.

Teaching and education unions

Two teaching trade unions, the NUT and the ATL also took action on 30 June and do not need to ballot for the 30 November.

A third teaching union, the NASUWT are balloting now. Their ballot closes on 17 November.

The National Association of Head Teachers are staging their first ever industrial action ballot, which closes on 9 November.

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) have already balloted their members and are continuing to prepare for action on 30 November.

The ballot result from the Scottish teachers’ union – the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is due on 3 November.

Welsh teacher’s union (UCAC) took strike action last month and are very much part of this campaign, as are the Ulster Teachers Union (UTU) who are also balloting now.

Health service unions

In the health service, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) are balloting their members to strike on 30 November – their ballot closes on 14 November, as does the ballot for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP).

Crime and justice unions

The National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) are balloting for action on 30 November with a closing date of 17 November.

The Prison Officers Association (POA) are prohibited by law from taking strike action but fully support our campaign – and have been known to ignore that law in the past.

Local Government unions

Constructions union, UCATT, are balloting their public sector members for action on 30 November.

Amongst smaller unions balloting for action on 30 November are ASPECT (a union for managers in Children’s Services) and the AEP (the Association of Educational Psychologists).

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) who work in the public sector and have joint membership arrangements with either UNISON or UNITE will be taking action on 30 November.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Lambeth Council to debate pensions dispute

Following constructive discussions with the trade unions, Lambeth’s Labour Deputy Leader, Councillor Jackie Meldrum, has proposed Motion 13 to the Council Meeting next Wednesday evening, 9 November. The motions to the Council meeting are available online here.

This motion supports the trade union position in the current dispute with the Government over public service pensions – and in particular the trade dispute with the Secretary of State over the Local Government Pension Scheme which is set to lead to strike action on 30 November.

Councillor Meldrum’s motion states that the Council is disappointed that the Government has continually failed to negotiate fully and openly with Local Authorities and Trade Unions and regret that this has therefore made industrial action more likely. Council supports the Trade Unions in raising awareness of this issue and local government employees in defending their pension scheme. The motion then asks the Council to resolve to ask the Leader to write to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to express Council’s concerns and urge the Government to rethink their proposals.

Unfortunately, Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader, Councillor Ashley Lumsden has proposed an ill-advised and ill-informed amendment to the motion which supports the Government rather than the trade unions, citing “demographic circumstances” which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Government’s deliberate cash grab on the LGPS. UNISON has offered to attend a meeting with Liberal Democrat Councillors to explain why they are going wrong!

UNISON and the other trade unions will be lobbying Councillors next Wednesday evening to support Motion 13 – and oppose Councillor Lumsden’s foolish amendment.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

UNISON publishes LGPS pensions calculator

UNISON has now published pensions calculators on the national union website. There are two calculators for those of us in the Local Government Pension Scheme, one which shows how much more we will be asked to pay up front if the Government get there way – and another which shows how much our pension will be reduced by and how we will have to work longer to get that pension.

There are two different options proposed by the Government, and two options put forward by the Local Government Employers, and for the long term future of the scheme there are a range of proposed “accrual rates” so the calculators offer you choices about these things so that you can see the full range of possible changes to your pension contributions and your pensions.

The calculators also ask you how many hours a week you work because that is relevant to the accrual of your pension. Because this is a national dispute the calculators are based upon the national standard of a 37 hour working week, whereas the London standard is 36 and – in Lambeth – we have had 35 hour working since the 1980s, now harmonised across the whole Council workforce. The branch has already raised this with the Union nationally and Regionally and suggested that variants of the calculator based on 36 and 35 hour weeks should be published.

However, an enormous amount of work has gone into producing these accurate calculators for this vital national dispute so we need to use these calculators now to understand in broad terms the scale of the Government’s attack on our pensions.

You therefore need to take Lambeth’s 35 hour week into account when using the pension calculators on the national union website as follows;

If you work full time – leave the figure of 37 hours (which is the default setting when you open the calculator).

If you work part time – instead of entering the number of hours you actually work each week you need to divide that figure by 35 and then multiply it by 37 (or, which is easier, multiply by 1.057). So if you work 17.5 hours then enter 17.5 x 1.057 = 18.5, or if you work 25 hours then enter 25 x 1.057 = 26.43.

If you work term time only – contact the Pensions Penguin at askthelambethpenguin@yahoo.co.uk

Here are the links to the national calculators again;

How much more you will pay

How much less you will get

All members should take the time to look at these pension calculators, and shop stewards should familiarise yourself with the calculator so that you can help members. Give yourself a bit of time and make a note of all the various ways in which the Government’s different proposals will hit you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Examples of the impact of proposed changes to our pensions

PENSION CASE STUDIES

Whilst the fight to defend our pensions is about much more than just the impact upon each of us as individuals, many members are asking what the individual impact will be.

Here are some worked examples of the impact of the Government's two proposed options for the immediate future of the Local Government Pension Scheme. These come with no particular warranty and are just our best attempt to illustrate what all the percentages and "accrual rates" mean in practice. These examples take no account of the detrimental impact on all our pensions of the change in uprating pensions in payment from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is estimated to have reduced the lifetime value of pensions for those who have not yet retired by between 15% and 20%. These calculations also do not take account of any of the possible changes that may be proposed in the negotiations which have not yet begun about implementing the recommendations of Lord Hutton (except that they do anticipate that the pension age in the LGPS will rise in line with the state pension age as the Government clearly intend). Otherwise, what follows is based simply upon a comparison of the Government's options one and two with the current (2008) Local Government Pension Scheme.

Because these examples are for Lambeth they are based upon the Inner London Pay Spine.

CASE STUDY ONE – THE FORTYSOMETHING SPECIALIST

Ed is 47 years old with 28 years service and is at the top of PO2. Under the current scheme he could expect to retire on an unreduced pension in eighteen years at the age of 65. Based on today’s salary for that grade his pension at the age of 65 would be around £23,200 on the basis of the current scheme. He currently pays 6.8% of salary in employee pension contributions (£198.65 a month before tax).

In Option One, his pension contributions will rise to £219.09 in 2012/13; £242.46 in 2013/14 and £254.15 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving him more than £55 a month worse off before tax.

His retirement age will move to 66, and after working for one additional year to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £23,050. If he chose to leave at 65 his pension of £22,510 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £21,160 – a cut in pension of over £2,000 a year for life.

In Option Two, his pension contributions will rise to £207.41 in 2012/13; £227.86 in 2013/14 and £239.54 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving him more than £40 a month worse off before tax.

His retirement age will move to 66, and after working for one additional year to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £22,750. If he chose to leave at 65 his pension of £22,230 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £20,900 – a cut in pension of more than £2,300 a year for life.

CASE STUDY TWO – THE TWENTYSOMETHING ADMINISTRATOR

Rachel is 26 years old with 2 years service and is at the top of Scale 5. Under the current scheme she could expect to retire on an unreduced pension in 39 years at the age of 65. Based on today’s salary for that grade her pension at the age of 65 would be around £17,000. She currently pays 6.5% of salary in employee pension contributions (£134.44 a month before tax).

In Option One, her pension contributions will rise to £148.91 in 2012/13; £165.46 in 2013/14 and £171.66 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving her £37 a month worse off before tax.

Her retirement age will move to 68, and after working three additional years to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £15,790. If she chose to leave at 65 her pension of £14,640 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £12,450 – a cut in pension of more than £4,500 a year for life.

In Option Two, her pension contributions will rise to £140.64 in 2012/13; £148.91 in 2013/14 and £155.12 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving her more than £20 a month worse off before tax.

Her retirement age will move to 68, and after working three additional years to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £15,400. If she chose to leave at 65 her pension of £14,290 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £12,150 – a cut in pension of more than £4,800 a year for life.

CASE STUDY THREE – THE FIFTYSOMETHING PROFESSIONAL

Jane is 55 years old with 33 years service and is at the top of PO1. Under the current scheme she could expect to retire on an unreduced pension in ten years time at the age of 65. Based on today’s salary for that grade her pension at the age of 65 would be £19,700. She currently pays 6.8% of salary in employee pension contributions (£188.73 a month before tax).

In Option One, her pension contributions will rise to £208.16 in 2012/13; £230.37 in 2013/14 and £241.47 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving her £52 a month worse off before tax.

Her pension age will remain at 65. Her pension will be around £19,330 – a pension cut of £370 a year for life.

In Option Two, her pension contributions will rise to £197.06 in 2012/13; £216.49 in 2013/14 and £227.59 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving her £39 a month worse off before tax.

Her pension age will remain at 65. Her pension will be around £19,250 – a pension cut of £450 a year for life.

CASE STUDY FOUR – THE THIRTYSOMETHING MANAGER

Dave is 35 years old with ten years service and is at the top of PO3. Under the current scheme he could expect to retire on an unreduced pension in thirty years time at the age of 65. Based on today’s salary for that grade his pension at the age of 65 would be around £24,130. He currently pays 6.8% of salary in employee pension contributions (£214.49 a month before tax).

In Option One, his pension contributions will rise to £236.57 in 2012/13; £261.80 in 2013/14 and £274.42 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving him almost £60 a month worse off before tax.

His retirement age will move to 67, and after working two additional years to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £22,730. If he chose to leave at 65 his pension of £21,570 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £19,190 ­– a cut in pension of more than £4,900 a year for life.

In Option Two, his pension contributions will rise to £223.95 in 2012/13; £246.03 in 2013/14 and £258.65 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving him £44 a month worse off before tax.

His retirement age will move to 67, and after working two additional years to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £22,280. If he chose to leave at 65 his pension of £21,150 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £18,830 – a cut in pension of more than £5,300 a year for life.

CASE STUDY FIVE – THE FIFTY YEAR OLD CUSTOMER SERVICES ASSISTANT

Sarah is 50 years old with thirty years service and is on the top of Scale 3. Under the current scheme she could expect to retire on an unreduced pension in fifteen years time at the age of 65. Based on today’s salary for that grade her pension at the age of 65 would be around £12,830. She currently pays 6.5% of salary in employee pension contributions (£109.02 a month before tax).

In Option One, her pension contributions will rise to £112.38 in 2012/13; £120.76 in 2013/14 and £129.15 from 2014/15 onwards, leaving her £20 a month worse off before tax.

Her retirement age will move to 66, and after working one additional year to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £12,780. If she chose to leave at 65 her pension of £12,470 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £11,850 – a cut in pension of £980 a year for life.

In Option Two her pension contributions will rise to £114.05 from 2013/14 onwards, leaving her £5 a month worse off before tax.

Her retirement age will move to 66, and after working one additional year to get an unreduced pension that pension would be around £12,680. If she chose to leave at 65 her pension of £12,370 would be actuarially reduced to an estimated £11,750 – a cut in pension of £1,080 a year for life.

If you have suggestions for further case studies please comment - or contact the pensions penguin at askthelambethpenguin@yahoo.co.uk.

And don't forget to vote "YES"!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Branch Consultation on 2012 pay claim

Date: 17 August 2012

To Lambeth UNISON members covered by the NJC national pay negotiations

Dear Colleagues,

Consultation on the pay claim for next year

Monday was pay day for those of us employed by Lambeth Council and Lambeth Living. It’s the day on which I realise that we haven’t had a pay rise since 1 April 2009. At that time the Retail Price Index stood at 211.5, in June this year it stood at 235.2. This means that prices have increased by 11.2% since our pay last increased – they will have increased further before our next pay claim date of 1 April 2012.

The national union is asking branches to consult members on next year’s pay claim, based upon the decision of the national negotiators to recommend that we submit a claim for a “substantial increase” and for “an end to attacks on conditions of service.” The national negotiators thought that it would not be “realistic” to ask for the 11% which would be needed to put our spending power back to where it was in April 2009.

To get back to where we were then, the increase which would be required would be;
£2,290 at the bottom of Scale 4
£3,025 at the top of Scale 6
£3,730 at the top of PO1
£4,240 at the top of PO3
If you have been on any of those points in the pay spine since 1 April 2009, that is how much worse of you are as a result of the pay freeze imposed upon us by the employers and the Government.

These are hard times, with many jobs at risk and an attack upon our pensions – but for how many more years can we go on letting our standard of living fall as prices go up (currently at 5% a year) while our pay is stuck?

Whilst the national union is only asking us to consult you as to whether or not you agree with what the negotiators have already decided, the Branch proposes to seek members’ views on various options for the pay claim.

Because we have to respond to the national pay consultation by 9 September, over the holiday period, we are asking for responses from members by email to an address set up for this purpose - lambethunisonpay2012@gmail.com. Please reply by 8 September at the latest.

The full national circular has been circulated. The options on which the branch is seeking your views are as follows;

Option One The recommendation from the national negotiators – a claim for a substantial increase on all pay points which recognises the hardship being suffered by local government workers - in particular the lowest-paid.

Option Two The claim which would be necessary to restore the spending power of our pay, on all points, to the level we were at on 1 April 2009 – a claim for an increase of an 11% increase on all pay points.

Option Three A claim to restore the spending power of anyone earning the top of Scale 6 (£27,000), to address low pay by levelling up for those below that level and to offer some increase on all points – a claim for a flat rate increase of £3,000 on all pay points. I

n addition to considering these three options, the national negotiators recommend that we support the inclusion in the national pay claim of a demand for an end to attacks on terms and conditions.

Please bear in mind that the employers are unlikely to make any pay offer next year, just as they made no pay offer this year. To break the Government’s pay freeze policy and secure any increase in pay for any local government workers is likely to require national strike action, whether our initial claim is for a “substantial” increase, a percentage increase or a flat rate increase.

If you do not believe that we should consider industrial action to improve the living standards of local government workers you should support Option Four.

Option Four Not to submit a claim for a pay increase but to accept a further decline in our living standards until at least 2013.

Shop stewards are encouraged to organise meetings so that members can discuss this consultation exercise before responding.

Alternatively if you have any comments or questions, you can make them by posting a reply to this message online.

Please do take the time to respond to this message.

Many thanks,

Jon Rogers BRANCH SECRETARY