Tuesday, 10 January 2012

UNISON accepts Local Govt Pensions framework and NHS Pensions Heads of Agreement

Today UNISON Service Group Executive members met in London to decide on whether or not to accept the Local Government Pensions framework (a set of principles for further negotiation) and the NHS Heads of Agreement (the government's final offer on the NHS pension scheme). In both cases the decision was taken to accept and continue futher negotations on the pension schemes.

In the case of the Local Government pension scheme this means further negotiations including:

  • Contributions
  • Accrual rate
  • Revaluation rate
  • Protections
  • Employer cap
  • Cost management mechanism
These negotiations are due to run until April, but if they don't go our way then our ballot for industrial action remains live and further action may be called. 

In the case of the NHS pension scheme this means further negotiations including:

  • Contribution rates from 2013
  • Flexible retirement
  • Lump sum for death in service
  • Flexible contribution rates, especially to encourage opt in
  • Transfer between Public Sector schemes
  • Leavers who rejoin within 5 years
  • Future increases in State Pension Age
  • Tripartite review regarding lower retirement ages for certain NHS staff, e.g. paramedics
  • Employer cost caps

Negotiations are due to finish in January, and the final negotiated package will then be consulted on with UNISON members, who will decide whether to accept or reject. If they decide to reject then our ballot for industrial action remains live, and as a result further action may be called.

In the South West 35 out of 39 Local government branches, and 17 out of 26 Health branches voted for further negotiations.

North Somerset branch based its response on the turnout on 30th November - under half our membership took industrial action that day. Unfortunately our employers also know how few UNISON members took action. We also based our response on the very small number of email responses received early in January. As a result we advised our regional office that we thought most of our members would prefer further negotiations, with the option of further industrial action if these negotiations fail.

The branch is holding members meetings throughout January and February, and we'll book some more for March and April now, to keep members updated on the pensions issue, and to prepare for the possibility of further industrial action. We'll also book some meetings at Weston General Hospital for members there. Meetings confirmed so far are:

18th January at 12.30 pm - Old Council Chamber, Town Hall

24th January at 12.30 pm – Badger House room 2

8th February at 12.30 pm - Badger House room 2

14th February at 12.30 pm - Castlewood rooms G08/9/10

21st February at 12.30 pm - New Council Chamber, Town Hall

My personal view is that although we achieved much through industrial action on 30th November, we did not achieve enough when assessed against our campaign against paying more, working longer and getting less - see my previous blog entry. But the only way we can achieve all these aims is if all our members are prepared to take sustained industrial action. In North Somerset this doesn't seem to be the case, and I think that's a shame. I also think we have many reasons to take action - not just pensions, but the pay freeze, pay cap, and cuts to terms and conditions, jobs and services. And again in order to protect jobs and services we need to be prepared to take action to defend them. I hope that our agreement today, based on little support from UNISON members to take further action, will not weaken us in future negotiations - not just on pensions, but pay, changes to employment law, and any future plans that the government have for the public sector.

In summary, this is where we're at:

Local government workers won’t have to pay more (at least until 2014), but they will have to work longer and they will get less when they retire (unless the courts overrule the switch from RPI to CPI).

NHS workers earning under £26,557 full-time salary won’t pay any extra contributions (at least until 2013), while those earning above that salary will pay more from April 2012. All NHS workers will work longer, and will get less in retirement (unless the courts overrule the switch from RPI to CPI).

Full information on the details of both the Local Government and NHS pension negotations can be found at:

Please let us know what you think - email the branch office unison@n-somerset.gov.uk or logon to our facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/ search for North Somerset Unison, or attend one of the meeting listed above and keep checking this blog for dates of further meetings.


Look closely at this picture - the king's body is made up of the people. Now I'm not comparing UNISON to the monarchy but I think it's a good illustration of the power of any union, which lies in its membership.
Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Title Page (1651)

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