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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
No 109 PENSIONS LOBBYING GUIDE
Communications

 

 

 

Pensions Briefing 109 - Lobbying Guide

Introduction

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 to you.

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 from www.scottish.parliament.uk.

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 and www.theyworkforyou.com.

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.

Contacting Politicians

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 reports
  • Ensure the information you provide is factually accurate
  • Stick to one issue to avoid over burdening or confusing the receiver
  • 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?

  1. 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.
  2. When most private sector schemes have been cut, they mostly have affected new entrants existing members have been protected. Not so here.
  3. All the available actuarial evidence says that the public sector pension schemes are affordable and sustainable. Yet age limits are being increased without discussion.
  4. 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 are ongoing.

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 you doing?

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 Wales.

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 MPs.

 

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Pensions Index

Back to Pensions minisite

UNISON Scotland Response to Proposed Changes
www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/
pensionresponse.html

UNISON Proper Pensions Campaign
http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/
index.asp

TUC Pensions information
http://www.tuc.org.uk/pensions/
index.cfm

Department of Works and Pensions:
http://www.dwp.gov.uk

Contacts list:

Dave Watson -
d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572