“2P or not 2P”

Pensions & Pay

More headlines in the newspapers and airwaves about our supposed “gold plated” public sector pensions.  Over the next 8 months we are going to see an increase in scaremongering from the media about our pension scheme.

The latest UNISON report states “The average LGPS pension in payment is still only around £4000pa and the average for women is around £2000pa that’s hardly gold plated!

If members [not just in Barnet] working in public services want to keep their pensions then they need to start defending them now. The government are making plans now, hence the press releases which will increase the nearer we get to the general election.

In the past the union has provided pro forma letters for members to send to their MPs, if members want to stop this attack on your future then you need to approach you MP now. If you can’t make it to one of your MP’s surgeries, email your MP with your letter. Ask the question:
“Will they vote to dismantle our pension scheme?”

Don’t be fooled by the alternatives, they are not acceptable and if implemented will not be sustainable for the future. Younger workers will see no benefit in joining such a scheme.

You might feel you are living quite comfortably now, but if the pension scheme is dismantled it will push millions of families into poverty and increase the burden on the state. How crazy is that?

Unfortunately, until we can have a grown up conversation about pensions we are going to have to deal with ‘headline grabbing sound bites’ from politicians seeking votes at the next general election.

What you can do
Contact your MP
Become a UNISON rep in your team
Start discussing the pension scheme in your work place


Our response to this years pay ballot has not been great, but having a ballot in the middle of the summer doesn’t help. There are two ways pay can improve, nationally and locally for example in a restructure your grade may increase.
National Pay ballot is looking at 1%, according to UNISON report most councils budgeted between 2- 2.5%. Our council budgeted for 2%. Amongst the London Councils there appears to be strong feeling that there should have been no increase except for the lower grades (no details). There were reports  that London councils were considering pulling out of the national pay talks machinery.
“Merrick Cockell (Con), chairman of London Councils, said the decision, worth 1% to most staff and 1.25% to the lowest paid, was likely to prompt the capital bloc to consider joining the 40 or so other authorities which set their own pay and conditions.”

Whilst this is unlikely to happen this time, it is something for ALL members to note as there is clear government policy for more local negotiation thus undermining national bargaining.

Local Pay
The average council worker goes through a restructure almost on an annual basis in which case there is an opportunity for an increase in pay. The LBB procedure for all restructures is covered in Managing Change. Staff should be consulted at the beginning of the process and given opportunity to comment on the content of role profiles. It is only after agreement on the RP’s will HR grade the posts, afterwards the Trade Unions grade the posts and compare with the HR scores. It is becoming increasingly the case that the trade unions grading scores are different to HR scores. In such cases we sometimes have to carry out a consultative ballot of the members concern to see how strongly members feel about what could be an increase of one or two increments. In these harsh economic times who can afford to lose a possible small increase in pay?

Accept it or you will be privatised!
This is not something new, but it is something that all public sector workers will have heard before but I predict something similar will be heard across public sector workplaces across the UK. I believe that the 2010 version may read “accept it & be privatised”, despite the fact that it is generally accepted privatisation does not save the public purse!

What about Barnet?
Despite media headlines which were simply quite mad, the future is still very uncertain, the sooner we have something concrete for staff to consult on the better.

I expect something much more transparent than in Phase 2 which saw a chosen few discuss the future for public services, whilst in the background, consultants were busy providing the financial case. By that I mean the efficiency savings, it is clear from looking at the contributions on the intranet that the groups were not party to the figures given for the Cabinet report in July this year. The Trade Union concern still remains that these figures were crude estimates with little or no substance.

Nationally one of the biggest criticisms of councils going into strategic partnerships has been the poor analysis of actual savings. Exaggerated claims are made to councillors quite understandably worried about the next poor financial settlement from central government. A consultant comes in and promises them the ‘Golden Fleece’. Is it no wonder that they agree to these sort of poorly conceived remedies to the increasingly poor state of public sector finances.

The only winners are the consultants, KPMG, Deloittes, PwC who grow fat on fees from the public sector organisations desperately looking for the magic pill to solve all ills.

When are public bodies going to learn? When are we going to tap the experience & expertise within our own organisations? When we use consultants, we should do so using robust performance monitoring of their contributions to the project.