Tuesday, July 16, 2013

UNISON Labour Link Forum 2013 - "Decent Pensions for All"

I was unable to go to this years' UNISON National Labour Link forum since it clashed with my local Councillor selection hustings (I was reselected as a candidate for West Ham ward in 2014).  Which is a great shame and the first one I have missed in years.

Top Greater London Regional Labour Link elected rep, Linda Bentley, moved our London region motion "Decent Pensions for All" which was passed overwhelmingly by the Forum.  Below is her speech.

"Forum, private and not for profit employers providing public services up and down the country are getting rid of their guaranteed defined benefit pensions schemes - and replacing them often with grossly inferior and insecure pensions.

Sodexo, The Pension Trust, G4S, the Social Housing Pension fund and even the national charity Barnardos

While other employers are planning huge hikes in pension contributions for our members if they want their schemes to remain open. This will in many cases lead to the schemes being unaffordable to members - who will just leave. - Which of course means that these schemes as well will simply close.

Forum, we must oppose these closures not only because we want our members to retire in dignity and not die in poverty. But Forum, our members are being conned out of their pensions by the financial services industry.

They say guaranteed pensions are too expensive? This is nonsense. The way they price pensions is outdated and simply wrong. They price so called pensions deficits by reference to the price of government bonds called gilts. Due to the current economic crisis these gilts are at a 200 year low. But why is this 200 year low price is still used to justify closures?

Forum, modern guaranteed defined pensions are as affordable now as they have ever been. For example the cost to employers of the Local Government Pension Scheme is fixed at 13% of wages. That is not unaffordable.

One other thing forum. Why don’t unions in this country help provide pensions as they do in many other countries? Is one reason why members in private companies won’t join a pension scheme is because they just don’t trust the financial services industry? Isn’t the provision of pensions something the labour movement should be at least looking at?

Finally Forum, in my view if guaranteed defined pensions schemes like mine only remain in the traditional public sector then our pensions will never be safe. We must have guaranteed pensions in the private sector – we must have decent pensions for all".

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