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Date: Monday 23 January 2006



Nine unions representing 1.5 million workers today (23 January) agreed to ballot those workers for strike action over planned cuts to their pension scheme. UNISON, AMICUS, TGWU, GMB, UCATT, CYWU, Napo, NUT and FBU today agreed the strategy and this afternoon UNISON's industrial action committee agreed to ballot one million of its members.

The Local Government Association wants to cut pension rights, but has so far refused to agree protection for all but a few existing scheme members. Talks to try to resolve the dispute, involving the Government, the LGA , local government employers and the unions, have been taking place for the best part of a year.

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said: "This dispute is the biggest issue UNISON has faced for decades. It affects the rights of one million of our members who have paid 6% of their salaries into their pension scheme for decades to save for their retirement and are now being told that the deal is off.

"The local government employers, the LGA and the Government should be in no doubt of how serious we are. All we are asking is for members of the local government pension scheme to be treated fairly -the same way as other public sector workers. The clock is ticking, but there is a window of opportunity and I would urge everyone concerned to make the most of it”.

Average pension for the scheme is £3,800 a year, but for women who make up 72% of scheme members, it is less than £2,000 a year.

AMICUS General Secretary, Derek Simpson, said: "Last year our local authority members responded decisively to the question about whether they would resort to industrial action to defend their pension terms. The proposals on the table now are worse than they were then so it is safe to assume that they will vote again to strike and we will do everything we can to support them in the fight.

"Local government workers already have a worse scheme than other public sector workers and suffer extremely low pay, earning as little as £12,000 a year in stressful and physically demanding jobs at the front line of our public services. All we are asking is for their equal treatment with other public sector groups who have had their existing pension benefits protected by the government.”

TGWU General Secretary, Tony Woodley, said: "All we are looking for is a fair pension deal for local government workers. These workers signed a contract with their employer - the state - that agreed the terms for their retirement. It is unacceptable and unjust then that the employers now want to change these rules leaving hundreds of thousands of workers uncertain about their retirement plans or relying on means-tested benefits to top up their pension.

"There is still time for the government to state that they do intend to honour their end of the deal. All that is needed is for the government to say that local government workers will not be forced to accept less than their colleagues in the rest of the public sector and this dispute can be settled.”

GMB National Secretary, Brian Strutton, said: "GMB decided to ballot over 200,000 members after extensive discussions last year between the trade unions and LG employers failed to keep all negotiating options on the table pending a wholesale review of the pension scheme later in 2006. So the TU's are, once again, having to fight to defend local government workers' pensions.”

UCATT General Secretary, Alan Ritchie, said: "We are disappointed that the talks to date have not found a way forward. Our members feel very strongly on this matter; pension provision was a key part of the terms and conditions they signed up to at the commencement of their employment and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

CYWU General Secretary, Doug Nicholls, said: "We can see no economic or other case for attacking the local government pension scheme.” Napo, General Secretary, Judy McKnight, said: "Napo wants a fair deal for members in line with other public sector workers. We wanted all negotiating options to be kept open and are very disappointed the unions find themselves once again having to contemplate industrial action.”

Steve Sinnott, General Secretary of the NUT, said: "Six thousand members of the NUT who work directly for local authorities such as advisers to schools, are threatened with worsened pension arrangements than they would have had if they had stayed in schools - this is simply not acceptable.

"Like the other local government unions we will be looking to ballot those NUT members unless local government employers come up with an acceptable offer.”

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "Of the 999 services fire crews have been singled out for the worst treatment. Police, ambulance and coastguard have been granted protection for current members of their pension schemes, but we are not even offered that.”

Members of the local government pension scheme work in town halls, as secretaries, administrators, clerks, social workers. They work in schools as dinner ladies, caretakers, school secretaries. Teaching assistants working alongside teachers lose their pension rights but teachers do not. They work alongside police officers, where police support staff lose but police officers do not and in the probation services and family courts. They work in transport and water undertakings and in further and higher education.


Anne Mitchell UNISON Press Officer Tel: 020 73830717