The Socialist 18 January 2007
Labour Ministers make us sick
Local government pensions
Strike ballot put on hold once again
ON 10 JANUARY the local government executive of UNISON voted (16-5) to accept a proposal from the leadership to give the government yet more time to come up with the goods on the local government pensions scheme. This meant postponing the strike ballot.
Glenn Kelly, UNISON national executive member, personal capacity
But no one argued that we are near reaching a good deal and the meeting recognised that some of the proposals have got worse since the government announcement in November!
We now have to await the outcome of talks. A decision on balloting is now postponed until 8 February. This means that the earliest date a strike ballot would start is 8 March with a possible strike on 26 April.
Yet, the government is still intent on laying the regulations by 10 March, so they will become law on 1 April 2007.
We should be exerting as much pressure as possible now to force more from the government and be ready to strike if they don't back down.
That is why I proposed we move to a ballot now and not wait any longer.
The main attacks on our pension rights are: People under 50, who currently would be able to retire at 60, will have to accept losing this right or face a massive cut in their pension.
They will also be asked to pay more for this privilege if they earn £16,000 a year or more.
Every health worker, teacher and civil servant has retained their right to retire at 60 without loss. If it's good enough for them then it's good enough for us.
There is no protection for those manual workers on the existing 5% rate. They will have to pay the higher contribution rates.
Part-time, low-paid members who thought that they'd get a small reduction will face an actual increase in contributions.
Currently if you are made redundant and are 50 or over, your pension is paid as of right and cannot be refused or reduced.
In fact, in many areas members get added years. After 2010 the age you can take your pension in these circumstances will now rise to 55, (immediately for new members joining the scheme).
As if this were not bad enough, under the new proposals if you're made redundant or leave for efficiency reasons after 1 April 2008, the employer will have the right to refuse to release your pension.
Even if they agree to let you have your pension, the employer will be legally bound to consider reducing your pension by an early retirement factor for early payment.
There is some improvement in the ill-health proposals, particularly for those members who are too ill to work, but can't prove that they will be unfit until 65 and at the moment get no pension.
This is often the case for people with stress or depression.
However, you will now have to show that you are unfit for "any gainful employment" and not just in local government, as opposed to the current position of being unfit for your job or a comparable post.
The government wants a built-in process every three years that any increased costs to the scheme will be shared.
This is a recipe for the government and the employer to come back with even more attacks every three years.
If there are not enough concessions by the next local government executive meeting on 8 February, the strike ballot must start.
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