A message from Dave Prentis,

A message from Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary

Fighting for fair pensions

UNISON’s day of action on pensions on 30 November was a huge success – it got employers and ministers to negotiate seriously.

There’s been a lot of activity in December and January, and although some things are still being discussed, I thought it was important to let you know where we are now.

Just before Christmas, ministers produced a ‘heads of agreement’ offer and in January your elected health service group executive voted to continue talks on outstanding issues in that offer and then consult members.

The heads of agreement document outlines ministers’ final offer for the structure of a new scheme from 2015 – and although not the full offer, it does contain the main features of the proposed new scheme.

UNISON has not agreed to, or conceded, anything – members will make the decision on any complete final offer.

Your executive will meet again at the end of February to consider the full offer.

For now, UNISON is still involved in NHS pensions negotiations with ministers, alongside other health unions. Those negotiations are needed to help members calculate what the proposals mean for them, and make a decision with as much information as possible.

Negotiators in Scotland are seeking relevant discussions around the regulatory responsibilities which rest with the Scottish government.

However, UNISON is still in dispute over pensions unless and until any firm proposal is agreed. Our industrial action ballot from November remains ‘live’ so that if negotiations fail, we can still take action.

But the offer is a significant improvement and we have won important concessions, including Fair Deal for NHS staff outsourced under TUPE arrangements and protections for people who are near retirement (see the ‘More Information’ links at the end of this email for details).

So where are we now?

Final details of the offer are still being discussed, but the outline is clear: a career average (revalued earnings) – or Care – scheme from 2015, with protections for those near retirement and every ‘accrued’ benefit from the current final salary scheme also protected.

UNISON has never been opposed to career average schemes in principle – they can be fairer for those on low pay or who don’t get a lot of promotions through the salary scales. Whether a particular scheme is good for members will depend on the actual details such as accrual rates and the ‘revaluation rate’.

The accrual rate being proposed for a new career average scheme from 2015 is 1/54th of salary for each year in the scheme (an improvement on the 1/60ths and 1/80ths rates in the 2008 and 1995 sections of the current final salary scheme).

The proposed revaluation rate – how much your ‘banked’ earnings will be increased every year from the year they are earned until retirement to counteract the effects of inflation – is CPI inflation plus 1.5%.

To help members make an informed decision on the proposals, UNISON will provide as much detail as possible on the final offer once negotiations are ended.

In the meantime, full information on the ‘heads of agreement’ outline proposals, career average schemes in general and pensions jargon is available on the UNISON website at unison.org.uk/pensions/protectour.asp.

Keep an eye on it to make sure you stay up to date and informed.

More information:

Frequently asked questions on the NHS proposals (pdf document)

UNISON commentary on the heads of agreement (pdf documents)

Questions and answers on career average schemes

Pensions jargon buster

Dave Prentis UNISON general secretary

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