Green light to pensions negotiations

UNISON’s negotiators were given the green light to continue discussions with government ministers on changes to public sector pensions.

 Last week more than 250 key elected national, regional, rank and file activists met at UNISON’s headquarters to discuss the details of the proposals for the Local Government and Health pension schemes. They agreed to the frameworks negotiators have developed since 30 November.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary said: "We will carry on negotiating over pensions - because that's what we do as a trade union and because it's what our members want. But at the same time - we are still in dispute and our industrial action ballot is still valid for further action if needed.'

"UNISON was the lynch pin of the action," he added, "and we did it because negotiations had broken down - the government was saying that it would move to impose changes."

But the strength of the action had seen the government back down, returning to the table and negotiating properly.

In the NHSi Pension Scheme, this had resulted in an outline for future negotiations and in the Local Government Pensions Scheme, the withdrawal of statutory consultations on changes to contribution and accrual rates for April 2012 and government acceptance of a negotiating framework which will see no changes until 2014.

And in both schemes, a key advance since 30 November is the agreement to keep the Fair Deal on pensions, including 'admitted body status in the LGPS, which means public service pensions will be available for all public service workers, even if their jobs are outside the public sector - as is the case with 25% of current LGPS members.

The decision facing the union now was whether to continue with those negotiations, said Mr Prentis.

"This is not D Day," he pointed out. "It's not a day we're being asked to decide a settlement and call off action."

As a member-led union, negotiating to secure decent pension schemes for public service workers, UNISON will continue talking to get the best and fullest details in any proposals.

And it will be UNISON members, through ballots, who will decide if any proposals are acceptable.

In the meantime, UNISON is still in dispute and the industrial action ballot from November remains 'live' and Mr Prentis added: "If negotiations fail or break down as they did in September, we can still take action."

There are still many problems to overcome, UNISON activists recognised, but Mr Prentis summed up the mood of the meeting when he declared: "We are not defeatist. We know how to win by taking our members with us.

"If our objective is decent pensions schemes for public service workers, we will achieve it."

 For further information go to the UNISON web site using the link below: