Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Pensions, Pensions and more Pensions"

(This is an article I wrote last week for my Branch Stewards newsletter).

"Let’s face it. Many members probably consider Pensions to be a pretty boring issue and something that they would prefer to put off thinking about too much until another day (or preferably never). Well, whether you like it or not, in the coming months, all UNISON members and in fact nearly all employees will have to wake up and start thinking about pensions. 

For those of us in the Local Government Pension Scheme there is an ongoing consultation process at the moment by UNISON on a new look scheme. LGPS 2014 agreed last month with the unions, LGA employers and the Government. You will be balloted on the scheme at the end of the month. Have a look at what is being proposed on the UNISON website http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/lgps.asp

While members in the Social Housing Pension Scheme (Pensions Trust) will need to be aware that their employers have been sent letters about the deficits in their pension schemes which is causing some employers to panic and start talking of closing the scheme or massive increase in contributions. There has also been some outrageous scaremongering by some financial “advisors” to schemes. UNISON is arranging an urgent meeting with the Pensions Trust. In the meanwhile if your employers start talking of any changes to your pension scheme please contact the branch immediately and ask your employer to send us copies of what is being proposed.

Remember – the current pension so-called “deficits” are valued in a completely discredited and inaccurate manner which even the current Pensions minster has recognised is wrong and needlessly “killing” good pensions schemes. Remember closing a pension scheme does not get rid of any deficit - in fact it can make things worse.

Finally, for those of you who are not in the LGPS or SHPS please be aware that “auto-rolling” is kicking in at the end of this year. Nearly all employees who are currently not in a pension scheme will be automatically enrolled into the employer’s scheme or a state scheme.

Now this is “good news” for those not in a scheme but what we are concerned about is that some employers who currently have decently funded defined contribution schemes (also known as DC, Group personal pensions, Group Stakeholders, money purchase etc) may be tempted to cut existing employer contributions, since they are worried about an increase in the pension bill from more people being in it.

We have to fight this as well. Pensions are expensive. Employer’s have to realise that unless they want their staff to retire in poverty they have to fund pensions properly.

Pensions are obviously not boring nor are they as complicated as you think. We need to have at least one UNISON Pension Champion (or rep) in every employer. If you are interested in being a “Pension Champion” let the branch office know and we will sort out some training for you on the role in the very near future".

John Gray
Branch secretary
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