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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 August 2012

Vote No in Unison's local government pension scheme ballot

A Unison member

Unison members in local government are being subjected to an avalanche of material from the union leadership, urging us to vote to accept the new pension deal, LGPS 2014.

The ballot ends on 24 August.

What are they afraid of? They are scared that the members might get to hear an alternative point of view, that once they hear the actual facts that we will still be working longer, paying more and getting less, the members might actually vote to reject.

In one day I received five different emails and a text message from the union, plus the front page of the national website also urges a Yes vote.

The ballot paper arrived accompanied by another letter, also promoting a Yes vote. It is bad enough, if not unexpected, that our elected leadership voted to recommend a Yes vote.

The momentum that was created from the success of the 30 November strike was wasted, as the Unison leadership and others went in to negotiations with the government. They left PCS, UCU, NUT to fight on their own.

But now we are being instructed by unelected officials in the union that branches can't campaign for a No vote, nor can stewards or members, even if the branch position was to reject the deal.

Whole branches have been threatened with disciplinary action for allegedly breaking rules, when in fact, it has been the unelected officialdom that has been breaking rules.

Despite the threats we won't be silent. We are accountable to our fellow members, not the likes of general secretary Dave Prentis. That is why we have been campaigning for a No vote, through producing leaflets, posters, even our own text messages linking up stewards opposed to the deal.

Whatever the result will be, and it will be hard to beat the tidal wave for a Yes vote coming from the top, the fight will remain to reclaim Unison for the members.

We say No because...

Most people will still work longer. For those under the age of 55 the normal retirement age will rise in line with the new state pension age, with some having to work to 70.

Most will still get less because pensions will only be uprated with the lower CPI inflation rate rather than RPI.

Also the final salary scheme is to be replaced with a career average scheme. In 2006 Unison members fought to keep this and opposed the career average scheme. Most workers earn more in their last years of work.

Many will pay more. They say only workers earning over 43,000 will see a contributions increase. But some earning under 20,000 will pay more.

Also we've been paying more for the last four years and had no pay rise for three of those.

There are some improvements:

Part time staff will now pay contributions based on actual earnings, not the full time equivalent.

Staff transferring to the private sector can remain in the scheme from April 2014. But it's not clear who will pay for this, councils or the companies.

Save now - lose later. There will now be a 50/50 option. Effectively you can pay half the monthly contribution rate and get half the benefits. The future costs of the scheme are yet to be resolved. This is a recipe for "vote now, pay more later".

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In The Socialist 8 August 2012:

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Interview with Southampton rebel councillors

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Syria: Is there an alternative to the developing civil war?

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Trial resumes of Kazakhstan human rights activist


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