Local Government Pension Scheme - Supplementary Press Release

Further to our Press Release sent on 7 October 2011 please find supplementary information.

As the result of changes that UNISON negotiated under the last labour government in 2008, projected costs to employers of the LGPS have already been cut by billions. This was a new, secure affordable scheme. The Treasury now want to “save” another £900 million a year.

The government imposed an extremely tight timetable on the local government employers and the unions to come up with the proposals and to make the £900 million savings. There is a widely held view that the timetable is unrealistic and unnecessary as it simply does not give enough time for safe and considered decisions to be made.

The trade unions asked that adequate time is given to examine all possible options, commission research and look in depth at the outcome of the 2010 Local Government Pension Scheme evaluations (which are undertaken on a 3 year basis) to be able to make sound and prudent judgments about possible changes.

For most public services this will mean workers will have to pay more out of their salary each year, work longer before they can claim their full pension and get less pension income when they are retired. It’s important to understand that none of the extra contributions of “savings” generated by these changes will go towards improving anyone’s pension.

The value of future pensions has been cut around 15% by changing the way inflation is measured from the Retail Price Index to Consumer Price Index. UNISON is seeking a judicial review of this decision.

There is also a plan to end the “fair deal” negotiated in 1999, which protects workers whose jobs are privatised as it means private sector employers have to provide a pension scheme which is comparable.

UNISON remains willing to continue with the talks. The decision to ballot for Industrial Action has not been taken lightly.

ENDS.

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Biggest Ballot In History Opens As Council Workers Cast Pensions Strike Vote

Ballot papers will start dropping through post boxes from today (11th October 2011) as Council Workers in Staffordshire begin voting on taking strike action over planned changes to public sector pensions.

Strike action is the last resort for council workers. It follows months of talks in which Ministers have refused to move on from the hard line stance to make public sector workers work longer, pay more and get less when they retire. The plans are not about pensions – they are about deficit reduction.

Jane Heath, Branch Secretary said:

“It’s important to understand that none of the extra contributions savings generated by these changes will go towards improving anyone’s pension. Instead they are being imposed to help the Treasury pay off the debts created by the banking crisis and pave the way for tax cuts for the better off.

“Reforms made 4 years ago brought in changes to make the local government scheme affordable and sustainable. We are urging our members to vote YES in the ballot for industrial action. We know our members won’t make the decision to strike lightly but they have been left with little choice. The pensions plans are just another way of making public sector workers pay for the recession. It is a tax on low paid workers and comes on top of heavy job losses and a 2-year pay freeze at a time of high inflation.”

“We do not want to harm the public and we know that we can count on their support. We will be asking them to join our campaigns for decent pensions for all workers – public and private sector.”

“The average pension in local government is £4,000 per annum, dropping to just £2,800 for women (less than £56 per week). These are not gold plated pensions.”

ENDS.

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Staffordshire Branch of UNISON Joins the March for the Alternative on 26th March 2010

Two coaches of Staffordshire Branch of UNISON members and their families will be joining over 100,000 protestors at March for the alternative which will take place in London on Saturday 26th March.

The march is being co-ordinated by the TUC as a response to the government’s drastic austerity measures which are resulting in the demolition of the UK’s public services.

In Staffordshire the government’s measures are resulting in Staffordshire County Council making savings of £75m by 2013. UNISON reports that they are seeing this being played out in a constant stream of restructures and redundancies, with members having to continually apply for their jobs. Consequently we are seeing changes in the range of services delivered to the public and the method of that delivery, moving away from Local Authority provision to services commissioned from private companies answerable to their shareholders and not to local elected representatives (the system we currently have). Private Companies who will be answerable to shareholders for the profit they make from services, all funded by the tax payer.

However our members concerns are much wider than their own workplace, our members are concerned over the effects on the lives of their relatives, friends and communities.

Steve Elsey, Staffordshire Branch of UNISON Representative for Local Government workers said: - “Our members have grave concerns over the governments’ plans to dismantle the NHS, reduce Policing capacity, Cripple the Connexions Service and dismantle local authorities, selling it to the taxpayer as a financial necessity rather than the ideological Conservative aspiration it is.”

Jane Heath, Staffordshire Branch of UNISON said “these cuts are socially unjust and continue to impact on the most vulnerable in our society. We are seeing unprecedented speed of change which does not allow any time to consider what the true impact will be for individuals, their families or their local community. With so many job losses, where will the new jobs come from? How will this impact on our local economy? These are real concerns for our members and their families. Trying to balance the country’s economy through high unemployment is not the answer, but with unemployment figures heading for a 17 year high, this appears to be the approach being taken”.

The alternative to such severe austerity measures include:

  • Fair taxation including tackling tax avoidance by some of the UK’s best known companies
  • A “Robin Hood Tax” on the banks
  • Policies and Time to let economic growth and full employment raise the tax that will close the deficit.

ENDS.

Notes to editors.

Press contacts:

Steve Elsey - 07809 516895 - steve@staffsunison.org.uk

Jane Heath - 07740 822082 - jane@staffsunison.org.uk

Coaches will be leaving Stafford White Eagle Club, Riverway, Stafford at 6.30am on Saturday 26th March and a photo call will be taking place from 6.15am – 6.25am

March for the Alternative is organised by the TUC more details available at www.marchforthealternative.org.uk

Further information on UNISON’s alternative budget to tackle the deficit can be found here: http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=1890

Staffordshire Branch of UNISON represents over 7,000 members working in a range of services in Local Government.

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UNISON Warns Of Jobless Figures “Double Jeopardy”

Yesterdays Comprehensive Spending Review announcements only contained the main headlines.  The reality of how great that impact will actually be for our members and our community will only unfold as the months go on.

Nationally, we know that translates to 490,000 jobs being lost over 4 years.  UNISON estimates that this could cost the government around £4.6bn in lost tax revenue and £6.1bn in extra benefits.  The Government’s own figures, as well as Price Waterhouse Coopers, suggest planned spending cuts could cost an additional 400,000 private sector jobs.  The negative “multiplier” effect will weaken recovery and could result in a “lost decade” of persistent unemployment and stagnation.

Jane Heath, Branch Secretary Staffordshire Branch of UNISON said:
 
“We continue to have major concerns on the impact these cuts will have for the people of Staffordshire who both work in and receive the services affected.  Yesterday we heard that the private sector would fill the gap in replacing the jobs being lost.  To grow an economy you need to provide for more jobs than merely replacing the ones which have been lost.  Those new jobs also need to be in the same localities and at least the same salary range for a like-for-like replacement.  There is also the need to ensure that people have the necessary skills for the new jobs.  All these areas create a real challenge.”
 
“The Branch welcomes Philip Atkins, Staffordshire County Council leader’s assurances given to the media that front line services will be protected and that compulsory redundancies can be avoided.”
 
“Many services are divided into what are often described as “back office functions” and “front line services”.  The reality though is less clear.  In many cases the 2 areas are merged in such a way that the delivery of a service is reliant on the work undertaken in a back office function.  The Branch believes that this will add to the challenges of making 30% cuts in 3 years.”
 
“Our members in Connexions have already seen the reality of the Government cuts to grants and funding.  The Branch is under no illusion on what the Comprehensive Spending Review means to jobs and services.”

Staffordshire Connexions Face Battle To Maintain Services Following A Further £1.5 Million Cut To Budget

In a shock announcement, Staffordshire Connexions are being asked to find a further £1.5 million savings in their budget by March 2011.  This is in addition to the £560,000 savings over a 7 month period, which has already been announced in the Stoke on Trent Division of the Company.  The £1.5 million savings is a result of reductions in the Local Authority Area based grant received by Staffordshire County Council, which has been passed onto Staffordshire Connexions. 

Jane Heath, Branch Secretary for Staffordshire Branch of UNISON, said, “Our members are still reeling from the shock of this latest budget cut and the assertion that such high levels of savings can be obtained through cutting back on bureaucracy and other efficiency savings.”
 
“Staffordshire Connexions have already seen redundancies over the last 18 months as part of ongoing efficiency savings.  At its peak Staffordshire Connexions employed 387 people; we are now down to 310 staff.  We believe that costs have already been cut to the bone and a high level of saving will result in major impact to services and the loss of valuable front-line posts.”
 
“Nationally the Coalition Government is saying that they do not want to dismantle the Connexions service, yet at the same time they have already cut £467 million funding as part of the £1.165 billion cuts to Local Government.”
 
“Our Young people continue to be Society’s investment for the future.  It is difficult to see how the continued targeting of services for our young people, such as Connexions, is contributing to this investment.”
 
“A consultation meeting on what the cuts will mean to staff is planned for early next week.  Members are expecting that redundancies will be from the Adult Division, Foregate House and from both the Staffordshire and Stoke areas of connexions.  No details are currently available but anxiety with staff is running high that this could be up to 100 redundancies.”
 
“Staffordshire Branch of UNISON Officers and workplace representatives will work hard to minimise the loss of jobs, to try to ensure that Connexions can continue to support the young people of Staffordshire.”