Pensions Briefing 109 - Lobbying Guide
This briefing aims to provide a short guide to
lobbying politicians, particularly in regard to the issue of public
sector pension schemes. The first section will look at how to
contact politicians and interested bodies while the second section
will highlight some of the key issues in the debate on public
sector pension schemes.
Why should you Lobby politicians?
Lobbying is the process of trying to influence
policy by contacting politicians to highlight an issue of concern
Politicians will tend to give more attention
to a letter from a constituent than from an organisation - even
those they support. They are sensitive to the opinion of their
electorate. Few politicians have such large majorities that they
can take voters for granted, and most want a reputation as a good
MP/ MSP/ Councillor.
Your letter could make all the difference voters
in influencing what issues your MP, MSP or councillor decides
to focus on.
Who to contact?
In order to lobby politicians, it is of course
necessary to identify who are your local politicians. This can
be done in a number of ways. Local libraries will have lists of
all local councillors in their areas, as well as details of local
MPs and MSPs.
This information is also available online via
websites such as www.upmystreet.com.
Further information on the Regional MSPs within your area is available
There are also some online resources available
to check how MP's and MSP's have voted on certain issues. For
MSP's you would have to search the Scottish Parliament website
but for MP's there is www.publicwhip.org.uk
Similar information is available is available
in Hansard (House of Commons) or in the Official Document (Scottish
Parliament) and should be available from main libraries.
Politicians can be contacted in a number of ways including telephone
calls, a visit to their surgeries or even by letter, fax or email.
However there are some key points to remember:
- Identify yourself as a constituent
- Be polite and concise
- If writing, keep the letter brief but do enclose any relevant
- Ensure the information you provide is factually accurate
- Stick to one issue to avoid over burdening or confusing the
- Be clear about what you are asking them to do
- Request a reply
- Make sure you include your name, address and telephone number
in any correspondence
- Write in your own individual style, as personalised communications
have more impact than standardised responses.
Public Sector Pension Schemes
Below are some of the key issues relating to
the proposed changes to public sector pension schemes and the
UNISON Scotland response.
Why are you in dispute?
Because the government is proposing to increase
minimum and normal pension age and pensions for anyone retiring
after 60. Anyone retiring after 50 – even if made redundant –
will get no pension at all until they are 55.
They are also proposing further cuts in pensions
and increasing contributions, breaking the conditions that we
signed up for when we started working for the public service.
And they are staring this process whilst refusing to discuss it
with the unions representing us.
In addition to the changes above, we are demanding
a positive commitment to provide pensions for all unmarried partners
at no additional cost to those members.
Isn't everybody having pension cuts? Why should you be exempt?
- Public service workers earn less than comparable jobs in the
private sector. Compensation for this is that they have always
been permitted a fair pension. This is being taken away.
- When most private sector schemes have been cut, they mostly
have affected new entrants – existing members have been protected.
Not so here.
- All the available actuarial evidence says that the public
sector pension schemes are affordable and sustainable. Yet age
limits are being increased without discussion.
- When the public sector were buoyant in the 1980s many public
sector employers took a "contributions holiday" stopping
their contributions to schemes. No such option was offered to
the workforce. Yet when the going gets tough it is the workforce
who are expected to carry the can.
Aren't public sector schemes featherbedded?
Isn't it just so high paid members can get large yearly pensions?
No. Very few of public service workers are well
paid. Indeed the majority earn less than they would for doing
the same job in the private sector. Pensions are related to pay.
The average pension in local government is £3,800 per annum. Hardly
a kings ransom.
The Government says that this dispute is premature.
That proposals for Scotland haven't been tabled yet and reviews
The SPPA and the Scottish Minister for Pensions
have said clearly that doing anything different in Scotland from
England and Wales is not an option. The increase retirement ages
for the local government scheme in England is before Parliament
and is due to come into force on 1 April 2005.
The government says you are all living longer
so the rules need to be changed so you work for longer.
Increases in life expectancy have not been experienced
by many public sector workers, e.g., cleaners experienced no improvement
in life expectancy. The 25 years, between 1972 and 1999. Males
working in local government have mortality rates of twice the
UK average between 60-65.
Isn't this so-called 'rule of 85' discriminatory?
The Government is using forthcoming anti-ageism
legislation as an excuse to attack this. Legal advice suggests
that any minor flaws in it could be improved.
On the contrary the Governments proposed abolition
of the rule with no alternative is likely to have a disproportionate
effect on the low paid and part time. These are mainly women.
Who do you want to take action and what are
The first target are Scottish MPs who we are
asking to sign and support an EDM (No 579) to stop the implementation
of the amendment to the local government scheme in England and
We will also be targeting MSPs to explain why
they have a role in this in Scotland - That decisions on public
sector pensions are devolved.
If there is no movement from the Government we
will use the General Election to put increasing pressure on prospective