EPSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan, sends solidarity to #BarnetUNISON mental health social workers.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary a European trade union federation representing over 8 million public service workers in 48 countries has sent a solidarity message to #BarnetUNISON mental health social workers.

Click on link below to read full statement

EPSU solidarity letter Barnet social workers’ strike May 2024

Why is the mental health social worker strike still ongoing?

Barnet UNISON Mental Health Social Workers have already taken 37 days of strike action over an eight-month period. On 13 May 2024 they begin a further three weeks of strike action which will mean they will have taken a total of 52 days of strike action.

If the dispute is not resolved, they begin four weeks of strike action on Monday 17 June 2024 which will mean by the end of this strike period they will have taken a total of 72 days of strike action.

This is an extraordinary amount of strike action in any workplace but to be happening in mental health services it is shocking and disturbing. This dispute should have ended months ago but despite UNISON trying to secure ways to reach a positive settlement, Barnet Council continues to frustrate any hopes of reaching a resolution. This coming strike action will see our members taking seven weeks of strike action over a nine-week period.

As news of this historic strike action spreads across the trade union movement supporters keep asking what is preventing a resolution.

In the interests of transparency and willingness to try and reach a resolution UNISON has put together a list of common questions we have been asked over the last nine months.

Click on link below to read our responses to questions about this dispute.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Why-is-the-strike-still-ongoing-1.pdf

 

 

Change in pension contributions – explanation below .

Several members contacted our branch this month as they noticed a change in the employer contributions.

The branch contacted the Council and requested that they put out an announcement to the workforce explaining why this has happened and what it means to each member.

Below is the statement sent out in an email to all staff. We are conscious that not all staff have access to a work email, which is why we are publishing the statement in full on our web site.

 

 

Change in the employer contribution to the Local Government Pension Scheme

As of this month, there has been a reduction in the amount of pension contribution that the council will pay into the Barnet Pension Fund (part of the LGPS). This does not affect your pensions benefits in any way.

The pensions team have provided a detailed update about the Pensions Fund and why the employer contribution has reduced.

You may have noticed in your payslip that the amount of Employer Contributions towards the Barnet Pension Fund has reduced.  This does not affect your pension benefits in any way.  Pension benefits, and your contributions to your pension, are set according to a formula.  The council pays in an amount to ensure that there is enough money in the pension fund to cover all of these benefits, and this amount is recalculated from time to time.

Understanding the Pension Fund Financial Background

It is important to understand the financial background to the Pension Fund.  The Barnet Pension Fund (the “Fund”) funding position has improved to a very strong financial position due to increased long-term interest rates. This means that the Fund expects higher returns on the investments it holds.

This also means that the Fund is expected to need less money from employers like the Council to fund the benefits promised.

Despite this improvement in funding, the Council had been paying around £6 million a year to address a “funding shortfall”, which was determined on 31 March 2022, when the contribution rate was set.  Crucially, the Council had been paying more than necessary to address the “shortfall” that existed in March 2022.

The Actuary, an independent specialist advisor to the Fund, has determined that this shortfall no longer exists at the present time – indeed on 31 December 2023, the Actuary estimated the Fund was 123% funded.

Council’s Financial Situation

 As you will be aware, and like many local authorities, the Council is facing significant financial challenges, prioritising resources to protect essential services. Due to current financial pressures, the Council requested to contribute only what is required to address the funding shortfall identified on 31 March 2022 (rather than more than was what was required).

 

Pension Committee’s Decision Making

The Pension Committee, composed of elected members, carefully considered whether it was appropriate to review the Council’s pension contributions over four meetings. Expert advice from legal professionals confirmed the legality of the review.

In February, the Pensions Fund Committee approved the Council’s request for a reduction to their contribution from 28.4% to 20.4% of salaries (i.e. an 8% reduction) over a two-year period, starting from April 2024. This contribution reflects the amount required to address the funding shortfall on 31 March 2022 and does not take into account the significant improvement of the Funding of the Pension Fund since then.

 

Impact on member contributions

Individual member contributions will not change.  LGPS pension contributions are set by regulations and no Local Authority has the power to alter them.  This means that the recent decision to reduce the Council’s employer contribution rate will have no effect on individual member contributions.

 

Impact on member benefits

Member benefits are a statutory obligation set out in the statutory regulations governing the Local Government Pension Scheme and therefore cannot be changed by the Council and remain fully protected.   Pension scheme member benefits are therefore not impacted by any adjustment to the Council’s contribution rate.

 

Monitoring the Position

If the financial position of the Fund deteriorates significantly, such as through decreased interest rates or poor performance of the Fund’s assets, the Pension Fund Committee has the power to require the Council to increase its contributions to previous levels. As part of the agreement, and to protect the Fund, the Pension Fund Committee requires the Council to demonstrate that it is budgeting for the higher level of contribution within its long-term financial planning. The Fund will also have another full valuation in any event in March 2025.

 

End.

Service Group Elections are Underway – Have You Voted?

If you normally receive communications by email then please also go to this website link if you’ve not used your online vote.

You can vote by post.

This is what your envelope looks like when it arrives. It will contain your ballot paper, an envelope to return your ballot paper and a booklet which tells you what the candidates are standing for.

You have a total of 3 Votes for 3 different people.

This is how it looks like when you open your letter. You can vote for one person in each category.

One person for the Female Seat
One person for the General Seat
One person for the Reserved Seat

The Branch has nominated Gabby Lawler, Helen Davies and Anju Paul.

See here to find out why.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2024/04/19/service-group-elections/

When you have put your crosses in the boxes against the names you want to pick then put the ballot form in the envelope which came with your ballot paper and put it in the post.

The ballot closes 17th May. To ensure your vote arrives in time, post it back no later than 14th May.

If you have not received a ballot paper please call: 0800 0857 857

If you want to vote online, you will have received an email. Please click here to find out what this email looks like and follow the instructions. If you usually receive emails from UNISON but did not receive this email please check your junk/ spam or other filters to find it.

You Have 3 Votes Please Use Them All – Service Group Elections

Why vote?
The Service Group Executive is made up of representatives from all of UNISON’s regions. It decides policy and campaigns in between the annual conferences. If you want to see a campaign on Local Government funding to improve pay, terms and conditions in Councils and schools – this body should be the one driving that campaign, for instance.

How Do I Vote?
You should have received an email Monday 22nd April in the afternoon which looks like this. If you didn’t – check junk mail and spam etc – contact UNISON 0800 0857 857.

You will have 3 categories (“contests”) in which you can vote. Pick one and select the candidate you want.

The next page will ask you to confirm this is the correct one. If you made a mistake you can go back and change it. If you’re happy with your selection click the “submit” button and proceed to the next category (“contest”) and so on until you have cast your 3 votes.

The Branch has nominated Gabby Lawler, Helen Davies, and Anju Paul.

See here to find out why. https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2024/04/19/service-group-elections/

Please vote now!

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