Date: Monday 23 January 2006
JOINT RELEASE FROM: UNISON, AMICUS, TGWU, GMB, UCATT, CYWU, Napo,
NUT and FBU
UNIONS START STRIKE CLOCK TICKING OVER LOCAL GOVERNMENT PENSIONS
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
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
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
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
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