Saturday, June 16, 2012

The new LGPS 2014 (and the old Miserablists)


On Wednesday I went to a presentation/Q&A by UNISON to London Region on the proposed new Local Government Pension Scheme 2014. It was on the whole a fairly good humoured and constructive meeting.

I think that the points that struck home with the audience was that 90% of scheme members will pay the same in the new scheme (or less). Only the very high paid will pay more (and they will be gain by higher rate tax relief)

Members within 10 years of retirement will be fully protected (so-called Grandparent Rights).

It will be a fairer, non-discriminatory scheme.  It will improve the build up of benefits for everyone but in particular will mean a better pension for low paid women workers who have average service who will pay less and gain more (70% of our members are women).

There will be a new temporary 50% cut in the cost of staying in the pension scheme (with a corresponding cut in benefits). This will help stop members leaving when they have temporary financial problems. One of my top stewards recently admitted she had to leave the scheme to pay for childcare. Something she had always regretted.

More room for flexible retirement age (still from age 55). I cannot count the number of members I have met who want to "downsize" when they get older and take less stressful roles but cannot under the present scheme since if they if they do so towards the end of their career their final pension will be massively cut.

Workers who depend on non contractual overtime and other earnings will finally be able to protect their full income when they retire.

While the preservation (against huge opposition) and extension of “Fair deal” will protect workers who face or have been out sourced. They will be able to keep their pensions! This is a significant improvement. Which nobody who really cares about the future of working people should put at risk.

The scheme is different and complex but not impossible to understand. There were a number of good questions and points made in the Q&A (even by some of the usual suspects). Yet the miserablists were also present. Barracking, muttering, carping, misrepresenting and scaremongering. Making grossly inaccurate statements and indulging in self important grand standing.

I made the point that as a member of the LGPS for 19 years I was pleased that we now finally have the prospect of a truly long term affordable and sustainable pension scheme. The LGPS 2014 is a world class guaranteed scheme. Which we should now be arguing that all employers, private and public, should either join the scheme if eligible (and many will be) or use as a benchmark to set up a similar scheme to give their workers decent pensions.

To illustrate the value of the scheme I pointed out that where I work those UNISON members who have no access to the LGPS and have to pay into a non guaranteed personal pension scheme would have to save over their career, a saving pot of £300,000 to get a similar £10,000 per year pension. This savings pot would also potentially go up and down due to the vagaries of the stock market. So who knows what you will retire on.

The current average lifelong personal pension saving pot is £32,000. Do the maths.

Everyone is perfectly entitled (and expected) to query and challenge. I can understand those who say that they don't yet understand all what is being proposed yet or even those who genuinely think that we did have the bargaining power to get an even better deal.

I am forced to conclude that the miserablists however don’t give the proverbial about what are the best interests for members. They are driven by their ultra left sectarianism. Nothing would satisfy them. As a longstanding pension activist I can say with certainly that they had no interest whatsoever in pensions before they saw the opportunity to "strike chase" on the backs of ordinary workers. They are extremists who want to hijack the dispute to indulge in their toy town gesture politics.

Ironically it is the Tory right who are spitting the most blood and crying "betrayal" at our deal.
This week I came across, let us say, a "leading opponent" of public sector DB pensions. Who told me that the Government had "surrendered" to the unions. When I told him that there was some opposition to the proposals, he was genuinely shocked and said "don't they really realise how good it is"? I said yes most of them do, but they pretend otherwise.

UNISON has been clear from the beginning that once we have a final offer then it will be put to the members to decide in a secret ballot.

Let us also make clear that LGPS 2014 is potentially a bloody good deal won by our negotiators and our collective action. A perfect deal? No deal is ever perfect but this is really as good as it gets.

But the members should decide.

(Youtube video of leading lights of UNISON united left HotAir guitarists plotting world domination)
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