At the beginning of the month a government consultation paper was released with some very worrying implications for Local Government Pension Scheme members.
The government is proposing that there will no longer be a legal requirement for ‘further education corporations, sixth form college corporations and higher education corporations’ to offer LGPS membership to new non-teaching staff. This has been expected for a while, and sadly has come at the request of universities and colleges themselves. The proposal will no doubt be met with jubilation within many university boardrooms.
To be clear; the paper is proposing that universities will be able to decide whether to offer the scheme to new members of staff and is proposing that current employees’ scheme membership will be protected. The proposals are to be consulted on, and the government will need to pass legislation to make them happen.
Under the proposals, universities can make the decision themselves about whether to continue offering LGPS to new staff members, according to their own needs and ‘business model’. In practice this means that universities may decide to offer the scheme only to staff above a certain grade. Similarly, universities in competitive labour markets (e.g. in London or the South-East) may decide to continue offering the scheme to encourage staff retention.
Universities that decide to partially or fully pull out of LGPS are likely to offer their new non-teaching staff a cheaper (and far worse) pension scheme, with lower employer contributions.
The rationale behind the changes is that universities are now marketised and are in competition with each other, so are effectively no longer public sector employers. This rings hollow – when it comes to pay restraint and blocking strike action the government are happy to consider us public sector employees, but when it comes to pensions we no longer are.
The paper reassures us that current LGPS members will be protected, but as our colleagues in post-92 universities have found, pension ‘reforms’ are rarely final. On top of this, blocking new entrants to a pension scheme will damage it in the long-run. For example, in the current Firefighters’ dispute, a drop in contribution income (due to redundancies) is being given as a reason for cutting their pension scheme benefits.
HE and FE staff currently account for around 20% of LGPS members. Withdrawing access to the scheme for new staff in these institutions will be deeply damaging over the long-term, and will affect the benefits of all LGPS members.
Unison will be working locally and nationally to oppose this regressive proposal. We urge all members to respond to the consultation here.
This year’s National Disabled Members Conference takes place in Brighton from 2-4 November. But now is the time to get your branch to agree to send you!
Last year’s conference heard from President Gordon McKay (pictured) and a host of UNISON disabled members from up and down the country. The 2019 conference bulletin has now been published and all the details can be found here.
To attend as a delegate you need to speak to your branch secretary as soon as you can. Delegates are often agreed at the branch AGM – contact your branch now so you don’t miss out. The deadline for your branch to register you as a delegate is 25 July.
Conference is a great place to find out what UNISON is doing about disability equality in the workplace and to make sure your voice is heard as we agree our priorities for the year ahead. And of course you also get to meet lots of other disabled UNISON members and to enjoy the delights of Brighton! If your branch wants to submit a motion the deadline is 12 July.
The Branch supports the campaign, led by the Fire Brigade’s Union, and supported by Sheffield Trades Union Council, against cuts proposed by South Yorkshire Fire Authority.
The proposals would mean a reduction in the number of firefighters crewing a fire appliance from 5 to 4, and reduce night-time cover in Sheffield to one appliance with a four person crew.
The campaign is demanding that the Authority drop these plans and lobby the Government for proper funding.
What is the issue?
The Fire Service has a deficit of £8.3 million, which is being used as the justification for the current wave of cuts. £2.4 million of the deficit is attributable to the pensions deficit, itself caused by a drop in contribution income following previous cuts.
The proposals would mean a loss of 84 firefighter’s jobs. To put this in context, before austerity decimated the service there were 1100 firefighters – there are now 594.
The fifth person on a fire appliance, who would be abolished under the proposals, serves a crucial function in coordinating and monitoring duties to help protect the health and safety of firefighters in a building.
For a domestic incident, nine firefighters are needed, which – with reduced crew levels – would mean three engines rather than two. Support would be needed from other stations, increasing response times and putting pressure on the Service if there was a serious incident.
What has happened so far?
When the Chief Fire Officer presented his proposals to the South Yorkshire Fire Authority, the Authority voted to “note” the report, which means a delay while the proposals are consulted on. Consultation ends in August.
The FBU is lobbying members of the authority, and has set up a petition. If they can get 5000 signatories, this will force a debate in the Council chamber.
The FBU petitioned Parliament in May, held a rally in front of Sheffield Town Hall last week, and is also preparing to submit Freedom of Information requests to obtain more information about how the Fire Service spends its money.
What You Can do
Circulate information about the campaign, the consultation and the petition to your friends and collegues.
Sign the FBU’s petition here: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/stop-cuts-to-south-yorkshire-fire-and-rescue-service-1
Respond to the public consultation here: https://www.syfire.gov.uk/haveyoursay/
For more information on the campaign locally see:https://sheffieldtuc.co.uk/save-our-fire-service-no-job-cuts-no-reduction-in-fire-engine-crews-no-cut-in-night-time-cover-end-austerity-now/
You should have received an email from Jon Richards, UNISON’s Head of Education in the last week or so, urging that you use your vote in the ongoing pay consultation. You may also have received a reminder.
The email includes a link to allow you to vote. In the past we have conducted these consultative ballots locally, but they are now being run from National HQ.
If you are an eligible member but have lost your voting email or didn’t receive one, you can use this voting link instead (membership number required):
Please do use your vote. You can vote until 1st July.
The pay offer affects you, and your vote helps determine UNISON’s response. UNISON is urging members to REJECT the offer, and will decide whether to proceed to a full ballot for industrial action based on the results of this consultative ballot.
UNISON’s pay claim, submitted jointly with the other Higher Education unions, was for a rise of inflation (using the RPI measure), plus 3% (or a minimum of £3,349). The claim also asked for a £10 an hour minimum rate of pay, for all Universities to become accredited Living Wage employers, a 35 hour working week, action to close gender and ethnicity pay gaps, and action on excessive workloads and stress.
The employers offered a rise of 1.8%, with an offer of between 1.82% and 3.65% for the lowest paid.
Check what it would mean for you here: final pay offer.
Use UNISON’s pay calculator below to see how much pay you’ve lost over the last ten years:https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/about/higher-education/pay-now-higher-education.
University employers improve offer at latest pay talks.
Unions representing workers across the UK higher education sector met employers for the second round of pay talks, and received an improved offer over that made at the first meeting on 26 March.
UNISON head of education Jon Richards (above) said: “While the employers made an increase to their opening offer, this still falls far short of the fair claim made by unions.
“As negotiations continue, the unions will push for an improved deal at the next meeting later this month.”
In March, the university employers said they had “an initial envelope for discussion of 1.3% across all the elements of the pay claim”
This week, they increased that ‘envelope’ to 1.5% and spoke of a 2.5% pay rise for the lowest paid staff.
The unions and employers are due to meet again on 7 May.
Wreath laying ceremony and speeches by The Memorial Tree
outside Sheffield Town Hall, Pinstone Street
FRIDAY 26 APRIL 2019
“Remember the Dead – Fight for the Living”
International Workers Memorial Day is a big event this year with plenty of rousing and inspiring speakers’ present- there’s also a wreath laying service at the Town Hall memorial tree in which we as a branch have been asked to participate.
If your about next Friday and can spare a bit of your lunch break please attend as it’s important we show our support- it’s good for our members and the general public. If enough of us can attend on Friday, we’ll raise our banner high in a show of strength and solidarity with our fellow Trade Unionists.
UNISON SHU Health & Safety Officer
UNITY IS STRENGTH…….PARTY……..