Monthly Archives: February 2014

Local Governement Pension Scheme Changes

The Regulations changing the LGPS in England and Wales will come into force with effect from 1 April 2014.

A final reminder that anyone who has currently opted out of the LGPS (England and Wales) but wants to ensure the earnings link protection on any final salary benefits they have earned up to April 2014 (there may be some protection for those who opt back in within 5 years of opting out) MUST rejoin immediately. If the cost of the contributions is a problem then they should be reminded that from April there will be an option to pay half their normal contribution rate for half the pension. They should approach their employer’s pension department and ensure that the forms to rejoin have been returned and received by the pensions department before the end of this month. If they are not actively contributing to the scheme then any benefits they earned before they opted out, that fall outside the proposed five year window protection to opt back in, will go up in line with prices (currently Consumer Price Index) not earnings.

Anyone in the LGPS (England and Wales) thinking of paying Additional Voluntary Contributions to maximise tax free lump sum payment when they retire (so they don’t have to exchange so much of their pension for cash at the relatively poor exchange rate of £12 cash £1 pension) should elect to pay the contributions BEFORE April 2014. Members should also ensure that the election form is in the hands of their employer or their Pension Fund Administering Authority before 1 April 2014.

If members elect to pay after April (or if their forms are received late) then when they retire they are likely only to be able to take part of their AVC fund as a cash sum (currently 25% of the value). They will have to buy extra pension from the LGPS, or at whatever the annuity rates will be in the future, from a pension provider such as an insurance company. Members, especially those near retirement, should consider paying AVC’s if they can afford it and approach their employer pensions department for details of the AVC arrangement operated by their employer/LGPS fund. They can as an alternative buy extra pension in the LGPS.

LGPS transitional regulations update

These Regulations have been delayed due to the Government debating whether Councillors should continue to be allowed to join the LGPS. However, as far as we are aware, the protections that were agreed as part of the negotiations on the new LGPS scheme are all included. UNISON has been involved in drafting the regulations.

As drafted the regulations would mean the ‘rule of 85’ protection will go over into the LGPS 2014 unchanged. So any part of a person’s service currently covered by the rule of 85 would not be reduced for early payment if s/he decides to retire at 60, unless they have not completed enough service by that time to satisfy the rule, or the member has tapered protection.

Those who voluntarily decide to retire between the age of 55 and 60 with full or part protection for the rule of 85, would have an early retirement reduction unless the employer agreed to pay to remove it. There is still fine tuning to be done about the level of the reduction in such cases. We think that UNISON has been successful in arguing that the reduction will only count back from age 60, not 65, (or from the date the member attains the 85 year rule if after age 60), but this will be confirmed when the regulations are laid.

We also expect that the current definition of final pay and protections on pay will remain the same for all service up to April 2014. Underpinning protection for those who were within 10 years of their normal retirement age at April 2012 is also in the current draft.

UNISON is pushing for the transitional regulations to be laid as soon as possible, to remove uncertainty. We are concerned that, because of the delay in bringing the transitional regulations into law, some members are considering leaving the scheme or even resigning their jobs – under the false impression that the protections will not be implemented and the equally false impression that leaving the scheme would somehow protect their past service rights in the LGPS.

All those who want to ensure the final earnings protection on their LGPS service to April 2014, should make sure they are contributing to the LGPS when the regulations change in April.

Local Government Pension Scheme (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2014

These regulations were finally were laid before Parliament on Friday, 17 January; to come into force on 10 February. They make a number of technical amendments including clarifying the employer duties for automatic enrolment and re-enrolment of staff into the LGPS. The Explanatory Memorandum carries further detail and this is available to download along with the Statutory Instrument (SI 2014/44) from the OPSI website – http://www.opsi.gov.uk .

LGPS Shadow Scheme Advisory Board

The LGPS Shadow Scheme Advisory Board has issued a report on the call for evidence on fund mergers and methods to increase efficiency this can be found at: http://www.lgpsboard.org. UNISON was the only union to submit a response and this helped influence the shape of the report and recommendations. We expect the government to produce and options paper on fund mergers and other options in the coming months.

The board is seeking a legal opinion on a range of issues such as who is responsible for paying benefits should a fund go bust and in whose interests are funds invested? We expect the opinion to inform the forthcoming governance regulations, which will set procedures for running the scheme at national and fund level in the future.

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Why Islington Introduced the Living Wage for all Homecare Workers

The decision to increase wages was a moral obligation that one council decided it could not duck

Despite its media image and our proximity to the wealth of the City, Islington is one of the poorest boroughs in the country – 42% of children live below the breadline, hundreds of pensioners live in fuel poverty, and unemployment remains stubbornly high.

We also have high health inequality. Many residents are disabled through chronic pulmonary disease, cancer and age-related illnesses.

More than 1,200 residents are receiving care support at home, 16,000 residents identified themselves as carers in the 2011 Census, and 800 are paid agency home carers.

Islington is one of only four London boroughs and one of 19 in England, to maintain moderate needs care support, despite experiencing heavy cuts.

Wage squeeze

With local authority budgets axed under central government austerity measures, it might seem like a curious time to increase wage costs.

But, in Islington, the decision to banish poverty wages for homecare workers was a moral obligation we felt we should not duck. However harsh these times are for local government, they are undoubtedly harsher for those working in our lowest paid but vital profession – caring.

Cost of living crisis

The cost of living crisis has hit Islington hard, with some of the highest rents in the capital but many workers in low-paid or part-time jobs. We believe low pay should not be the business model that employers rely on to make a profit.

So last year, when we were retendering our homecare contracts, we stipulated successful bidders would have to pay the London living wage, currently £8.80 per hour.

From June, 800 home carers in Islington will enjoy the London living wage – some for the first time – joining all of the council’s employees and 98% of those who are employed under our contracts.

At the same time, Islington social services are increasing personal budget allowances, so service users can pay the London living wage to the homecare staff or personal assistants they employ directly.

We’ve put aside nearly £600,000 to make this commitment at a time when the government has cut £27m from our budget.

Our new care contracts include improvements to the quality and continuity of homecare and allow service users more flexibility in how they use their care hours through personalised support plans.

Paying a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work helps to drive standards higher among those looking after our older relatives, affording them some dignity and independence in their own homes.

Making a commitment to decent employment conditions for care workers will improve the quality of life for the people they care for. A living wage and secure employment help dedicated care workers to stay in the job and focus on giving the best possible care.

Banning 15-minute care visits

In December, Islington council co-signed Unison’s ethical care charter, becoming the first council to do all of the following for homecare staff and service users:

• ban poverty wages and zero-hours contracts for staff

• axe 15-minute care visits for service users

• provide more personalised care, giving service users more individual control

• support service users to negotiate with their care provider how and when they want their care to be delivered.

The charter sets minimum standards to protect the dignity and quality of life for people who need homecare. It commits councils to buying homecare only from providers who give workers enough time, training and a living wage so they can care properly, leading to better quality care for thousands of service users who rely on it.

In addition to paying the London living wage, Islington also supports carers through our carers’ hub, celebrating excellence through our Dignity in Care awards and supporting local charities – including Centre 404.

Homecare workers are often the unsung heroes of local authority social services. It is right that we recognise the value of the work they do.

Janet Burgess is Islington council‘s executive member for health and wellbeing

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UNISON NJC Committee Decides Course of Action

The UNISON NJC Committee met on 18 February to discuss the next steps in our pay campaign. This follows the Employers’ failure to make a pay offer because they want to wait and see what the new rate for the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will be.  They have also made it clear that any offer is unlikely to exceed 1%.

Make Us an Offer By 1 April

The UNISON NJC Committee voiced its disgust that the Employers are using the NMW as a benchmark for NJC pay. The decline in NJC pay in relation to the NMW has been dramatic. When the NMW was introduced in 1999, the bottom NJC pay point was 24.2% above the NMW. Now NJC pay is just 2.2% above – and had the Employers not deleted scp 4 last October, it would have dropped to a pitiful 0.8%.

The linkage to the NMW is not only unacceptable, it will mean that any increase above the NMW will be even lower than 1%, so many of our members would receive a negligible pay rise.

The NJC Committee reaffirmed its position that an offer of 1% on pay bill would be unacceptable and to give the employers a deadline of 1 April 2014 to make a formal offer.

If this deadline is not met, it was agreed to consult members informally on taking industrial action in support of our pay claim for £1.20 per hour.  

We will still consult our members over any formal pay offer that might follow in line with the Service Group’s pay consultation procedures.

Why 1st April?

1 April is the date the NJC pay award applies from. Normally we have a pay offer by this date. It is totally unacceptable for the Employers to decide that our members can wait for the announcement of the NMW.

NJC Trade Union Side to Meet

The Trade Union and Employer Joint Secretaries met today. The Employers made it clear that the 1% pay ‘envelope’ is not negotiable. We made UNISON’s position very clear – that we expect an offer before 1 April and that 1% will not be acceptable.  With inflation currently running at 2.8% (RPI) this is a further pay cut on top of 18% cut in wages in real terms since 2010 and the continuing local cuts to pay and conditions.

The NJC Trade Union Side meeting is meeting Wednesday 26 February to agree our joint position.

Gearing up the Campaign

The NJC Committee also agreed to continue to mount a high profile campaign and increase pressure on the government and the employers over the coming weeks. The local elections give us increased political leverage. There will be a further ‘day of protest’, possibly on 1 April itself. This will fall within the TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight, which runs from 24 March to 4 April. We are also producing further campaign materials, including a new letter for members to send to councillors and MPs and a members’ briefing on the alternative to austerity in local government.

The UNISON NJC committee also asked the National Secretary to ask each region to organise a meeting of all local government branches in their Regions as soon as possible. This is so that every branch can receive a briefing on the current situation and build support for action.

Worth it Purple

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Pay Hits Rock Bottom

Employers wait for national minimum wage announcement before making pay offer

The unions were due to meet the Local Government Employers this week to receive their response to our pay claim for £1.20 an hour. However, the Employers called off the pay talks.. They told us that the ‘good news’ is councils have agreed to make us a pay offer and the ‘bad news’ is theyWorth it won’t be making their pay offer yet. They want to wait for the government to announce the new level of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) to apply from October this year. Currently at £6.31 pence an hour, the NMW is just 14 pence above the lowest NJC pay rate of £6.45. The government is likely to announce the new rate for the National Minimum Wage before the local elections in May. The Employers have agreed to reconvene on 1 May to decide their next steps – one month after the local government pay award date.

National minimum wage should not be the local government benchmark

All three unions expressed anger and disgust at this shoddy treatment of our members and the total disrespect for the NJC negotiating machinery. The employers’ attitude to our members providing vital local services and supporting children in schools has reached an all-time low. Local government workers are used to being the poor relations of the public sector – now we are the poor relations of the UK economy.

Using the National Minimum Wage – the legal minimum wage ‘floor’ for the economy – as an explicit benchmark for our members’ pay for the first time ever shows just how little the employers and the government value their amazing contribution to local communities and children in schools. It also shows their disdain for women workers who make up more than three quarters of the workforce.

The Employers have also suggested that their offer will be worth 1% on paybill. Pegging the bottom NJC pay point to the NMW rise means there will be less than 1% for all members on pay points above.

The Decline In NJC Pay In Relation To NMW

The Employers’ position also sends out ominous signals for future years. Given the vast number of employees on the lower NJC pay points, it raises the ridiculous spectre of the Employers continuing to benchmark local government pay to the NMW. It also brings into focus the desperate need for them to tackle the years of pay neglect now, rather than focussing on skirting the NMW rate.

The table below shows the shocking deterioration in NJC pay in relation to the NMW. The comparison is between the NMW adult pay rate and the bottom NJC pay point for each year at 1 October.

Pay Matrix

And it’s about political choices – since 2010 the local government paybill has reduced by over 25% but at the same time the total amount of local authority reserves has increased from £2.6 billion to £19 billion. Employers say they need large reserves for investment – but clearly not for investment in their staff!

We also know our claim is affordable – 55% of the cost of a £1.20 an hour pay increase would pay for itself through increased tax and National Insurance ‘take’, which could be ‘recycled’ to councils and schools.

Next Steps

The unions have lodged a formal dispute with the employers – the letter is attached here.

UNISON’s NJC Committee will meet on 18 February to decide the next steps. The Trade Union Side is meeting on 26 February.

This shoddy treatment has to end once and for all. This is a pivotal year for NJC pay.

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Local Government Pension Scheme Changes

The Regulations changing the LGPS in England and Wales will come into force with effect from 1 April 2014.

A final reminder that anyone who has currently opted out of the LGPS (England and Wales) but wants to ensure the earnings link protection on any final salary benefits they have earned up to April 2014 (there may be some protection for those who opt back in within 5 years of opting out) MUST rejoin immediately. If the cost of the contributions is a problem then they should be reminded that from April there will be an option to pay half their normal contribution rate for half the pension. They should approach their employer’s pension department and ensure that the forms to rejoin have been returned and received by the pensions department before the end of this month. If they are not actively contributing to the scheme then any benefits they earned before they opted out, that fall outside the proposed five year window protection to opt back in, will go up in line with prices (currently Consumer Price Index) not earnings.

Anyone in the LGPS (England and Wales) thinking of paying Additional Voluntary Contributions to maximise tax free lump sum payment when they retire (so they don’t have to exchange so much of their pension for cash at the relatively poor exchange rate of £12 cash £1 pension) should elect to pay the contributions BEFORE April 2014. Members should also ensure that the election form is in the hands of their employer or their Pension Fund Administering Authority before 1 April 2014.

If members elect to pay after April (or if their forms are received late) then when they retire they are likely only to be able to take part of their AVC fund as a cash sum (currently 25% of the value). They will have to buy extra pension from the LGPS, or at whatever the annuity rates will be in the future, from a pension provider such as an insurance company. Members, especially those near retirement, should consider paying AVC’s if they can afford it and approach their employer pensions department for details of the AVC arrangement operated by their employer/LGPS fund. They can as an alternative buy extra pension in the LGPS.

LGPS transitional regulations update

These Regulations have been delayed due to the Government debating whether Councillors should continue to be allowed to join the LGPS. However, as far as we are aware, the protections that were agreed as part of the negotiations on the new LGPS scheme are all included. UNISON has been involved in drafting the regulations.

As drafted the regulations would mean the ‘rule of 85’ protection will go over into the LGPS 2014 unchanged. So any part of a person’s service currently covered by the rule of 85 would not be reduced for early payment if s/he decides to retire at 60, unless they have not completed enough service by that time to satisfy the rule, or the member has tapered protection.

Those who voluntarily decide to retire between the age of 55 and 60 with full or part protection for the rule of 85, would have an early retirement reduction unless the employer agreed to pay to remove it. There is still fine tuning to be done about the level of the reduction in such cases. We think that UNISON has been successful in arguing that the reduction will only count back from age 60, not 65, (or from the date the member attains the 85 year rule if after age 60), but this will be confirmed when the regulations are laid.

We also expect that the current definition of final pay and protections onLGPS Pic pay will remain the same for all service up to April 2014. Underpinning protection for those who were within 10 years of their normal retirement age at April 2012 is also in the current draft.

UNISON is pushing for the transitional regulations to be laid as soon as possible, to remove uncertainty. We are concerned that, because of the delay in bringing the transitional regulations into law, some members are considering leaving the scheme or even resigning their jobs – under the false impression that the protections will not be implemented and the equally false impression that leaving the scheme would somehow protect their past service rights in the LGPS.

All those who want to ensure the final earnings protection on their LGPS service to April 2014, should make sure they are contributing to the LGPS when the regulations change in April.

Local Government Pension Scheme (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2014

These regulations were finally were laid before Parliament on Friday, 17 January; to come into force on 10 February. They make a number of technical amendments including clarifying the employer duties for automatic enrolment and re-enrolment of staff into the LGPS. The Explanatory Memorandum carries further detail and this is available to download along with the Statutory Instrument (SI 2014/44) from the OPSI website – http://www.opsi.gov.uk .

LGPS Shadow Scheme Advisory Board

The LGPS Shadow Scheme Advisory Board has issued a report on the call for evidence on fund mergers and methods to increase efficiency this can be found at: http://www.lgpsboard.org. UNISON was the only union to submit a response and this helped influence the shape of the report and recommendations. We expect the government to produce and options paper on fund mergers and other options in the coming months.

The board is seeking a legal opinion on a range of issues such as who is responsible for paying benefits should a fund go bust and in whose interests are funds invested? We expect the opinion to inform the forthcoming governance regulations, which will set procedures for running the scheme at national and fund level in the future.

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Ethical Care Campaign – Success in Lancashire

Lancashire Local Goverment UNISON has successfully worked together with Lancashire County Council to improve how they commission homecare services.

The council has now committed to commissioning according to the principles of the Ethical Care Charter. 

 Lancashire UNISON has shown the value of engaging with their commissioning officers in order to improve homecare standards and the treatment of homecare workers.

Lancashire County Council recently undertook a review of their homecareHomecare service in advance of re-tendering for their homecare contracts.  The branch fed into the process making the Council aware that good homecare services go hand in hand with good treatment of the workforce.

The review subsequently endorsed UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter.  Here are the main findings of the report:

Given that staff turnover was 37% it stressed the need to improve the treatment of homecare workers in Lancashire.  This involves ensuring full compliance with National Minimum Wage regulations, but moving towards payment of the Living Wage, reducing the use of zero hours contracts in favour of regular hours, paying for travel time and ensuring that workers receive better standards of training.

Homecare providers are to operate in geographical zones in order to cut down on the amount of travel time that has to be undertaken by homecare workers.

The Council intends to reduce the number of providers from which it commissions home care from 129 to around 20  with a certain guarantee of hours for providers in order to minimise their need to use zero hours contracts.  Eligible employees will be TUPE’d across. 

All providers will be fully compliant with the Human Rights Act in their delivery of services.

Finally the council also undertook a survey of the people who received homecare services about the changes to the service. 94% said that they agreed with the council’s intention to improve employment conditions for home care workers.

This is a very good way of illustrating the levels of support for better treatment of homecare. The results of the review can be seen here:

http://council.lancashire.gov.uk/mgDecisionDetails.aspx?IId=20141&Opt=1

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Higher Education Industrial Action, 6 Feb

The UNISON Higher Education Service Group Executive have voted to take a 3rd day of strike action over pay on 6 February. These members have seen their pay cut by 13% over the last 4 years and yet nationally Universities have amassed a surplus of over £1.1 billion; whilst Vice Chancellors were awarded above average pay awards of 8.1% in 2013!

 Most of the 22 University branches in London will have pickets on entrances to their main campus buildings from 7am; please show your support by attending your nearest university picket line (outside of your working hours); publicise the strike with your members and also send the link below to an online petition calling for Fair Pay in Higher Education. 

 http://www.fairpayinhe.org.uk/ 

 For more information on the dispute please visit the UNISON webpages http://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/key-issues/he-pay-dispute/home/

 A PDF version of a leaflet for students and members of the public is here for your information.

 University main campus addresses

 Birkbeck College
University of London
Malet Street
London
WC1E 7HX

 Brunel University
Kingston Lane
Uxbridge
Middlesex
UB8 3PH

 City University
Northampton Square
London
EC1V 0HB

 Goldsmiths College
Lewisham Way
London
SE14 6NW 

Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
London
WC1H 0AL

 Kings College London
Strand
London
WC2R 2LS

Kingston University
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey
KT1 2EE

 London Metropolitan University
166-220 Holloway Road
London
N7 8DB

 London School Economics
Houghton Street
London
WC2A 2AE

 South Bank University
103 Borough Road
London
SE1 0AA

 Middlesex University
The Burroughs
London
NW4 4BT

 Queen Mary & Westfield College
Mile End Road
London
E1 4NS

 Senate House
University of London
Malet Street
London
WC1E 7HU

 School of Oriental & African Studies
10 Thornhaugh Street
London
WC1H 0XG

 University of West London
Walpole House
18-22 Bond Street
London
W5 5AA 

University of East London
Stratford Campus
Romford Road
London
E15 4LZ

 University College London
Gower Street
London
WC1E 6BT

 University of Westminster
115 New Cavendish Street
London
W1W 6UW

 University of Greenwich
Avery Hill Road
London
SE9 2HB

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