Monthly Archives: November 2015

Pension Inequality

[Notes of a meeting to discuss pension inequality at House of Commons Tuesday 8 September 2015]

 The meeting was arranged by National Pensioner Convention to meet with members of Parliament to discuss theNPC injustices within the pension system specifically affecting women.

Shadow Equalities Minister, Sharon Hodgson MP, chaired the meeting. Also present were Fiona McTaggart MP who has done a large amount of work on pensions and women, Ruth Cadbury MP, who is a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, and Kelvin Hopkins MP – they are all Labour MPs. Two NPC Vice-Presidents Jan Short (a UNISON member from NE Region) and Norman Jemison (UCU) were present together with representatives from UCU, RCN, Prospect, NASUWT and NUT and I was there as Chair of NPC Women’s Working Party but also representing UNISON retired members.

Despite the introduction of a new single tier state pension the manner in which it is being introduced and the scheme itself will remain discriminatory, against women in particular, and will continue to lead to greater pensioner poverty.

Jan Shortt very effectively set out the issues surrounding inequality for women in pensions. She explained that it was generally impossible for women to accrue the same occupational pensions as men as a result of low pay, part-time working, time off for childcare and caring for elderly relatives. This is compounded by the fact that many don’t get a full state pension having relied on their husband’s contributions and this leaves women frequently forced to rely on their husband’s pension income in retirement. She stated that ‘women are right at the back of the pension queue’ and that a ‘whole generation is living in poverty as a result of not having a pension of their own’. Three quarters of women pensioners live on or just below the poverty line. Jan painted a bleak picture of how women have not been treated as equally as their male counterparts not just historically both within the workplace and in retirement but that it continues to this day. All women born on or after 6 April 1953 will receive the new pension but not those women born after 6 April 1951 despite a man born within those dates being eligible. This discrimination is a result of the earlier legislation to equalise pension age for men and women.

The proposed increase to 35 contributory years to achieve a full state pension will also have an adverse impact. The effect of austerity has meant that many of those who are low paid are on zero-hours contracts where many are treated as self-employed, meaning their employer does not have to pay National Insurance on their behalf and most are unable to afford to pay into any form of pension scheme. The introduction of auto-enrolment and the new pension freedoms all pose challenges. It is a fact that low pay translates into a low pension in retirement. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated that £193 is required for a minimum stand of living whereas the basic state pension falls far short of that at £115 currently.

Jan spelt out NPC policy of a basic state pension for all regardless of contributions set at 70% of the living wage.

Fiona McTaggart was equally hard-hitting. She spelt it out that only 48% of women get a full state pension compared to 80% of men. What’s more with life expectancy increasing it means that the longer you live the poorer you will become. Matters can only get worse and she stated that there seems to be ‘gender blindness in current government policy’.

The discussion was opened to the floor and after a short debate it was agreed that a joint submission to a potential Select Committee on Pensions would be the most effective way forward and that a request for this might best come though the House of Lords by working closely with new Shadow Pensions Minister and Baroness Hollis. Any submission should include older women’s pensions, the impact of austerity on all pensions and same sex partnerships and pensions/survivors pensions. It was considered that NPC would be the most appropriate organisation to pull this together with the help of the various trade unions.

Rosie MacGregor 09.09.15NPC Banner




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Unison Retired Members Annual Conference 2015

Sue Clark, Verena Beane and Rochana Lowton attended as delegates on behalf of the branch and Ken Davison (as an independent visitor). Allen Hawley was on the Standing Orders Committee (SOC). This year’s conference was held at the Brighton Convention Centre. As with last year the conference was well attended, with a large London contingency.

Tuesday 6th October

Conference started after the caucus meetings with a choice of  four discussion groups or a panel debate. RochanaAlan with postersouth Lowton attended the “Save Care Now Campaign” Sue Clark and Verena Beane attended the panel debate on TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Allen Hawley was at a SOC meeting

Save Care Now: Report Rochana Lowton
Speaker: Matthew Eggan (Unison Lead Person)
Chair: Rosie McGreggor (Unison Retired Members National Committee )

Matthew Eggan opened the session by explaining that Unison is very concerned about how the Care System is in crisis. Not only is it failing the elderly and disabled people who rely on it but the Care Workers are suffering too. The majority of Councils are facing a black hole and funding continues to be decreasing. Reports from CQC (Care Quality Commission) have widely criticised the Commissioning of Care by the Local Authorities.

The following have been identified:

Care workers are not paid the living wage.

They are not receiving appropriate and better training.

Most Workers are on Zero hour Contracts.

They do not get paid for their travel time between visits to the people they care for.

Workers are slotted in to provide only 15 minutes on each visits. This does not allow for any emergencies the worker may face on arrival.

Workers are not able to build relationships with the people they care for so are not able to work in partnership.

People receive restricted and inappropriate care.

Eligibility criteria used in receiving care is restricted.

There was a short question and answer session and Unison delegates shared their experiences as care workers or about their family members receiving care.

Unison is working to put this right and asking members to report their concerns and difficulties so that they can be supported. The more instances that are reported to the union the stronger position they will be in to put pressure on employers to improve the situation.

Please add your voice to Unison campaign to get the council to adopt the Unison Ethical Care Charter. Visit and take action NOW.

Please contact your local branch office or call Unison National on 0845 355 0845.

TTIP Panel Debate:

Sue Clark, Verena Beane

The open panel debate was well attended The speakers were Sam Lowe (Friends of the Earth); Guy Taylor (Global Justice Now) and Lucille Thirlby (Unison National Executive Committee). The discussion was chaired by David Kippest (Chair National Retired Members’ Committee). The panellists explained what TTIP was all about and how it would affect all of us.

The main points made were:

TTIP is a non-traditional trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and the US. It aims to remove regulatory differences behind the border controls.

The agreement will cover 50% of the world trade and is seen by its advocates as a means to prosperity, jobs growth and wealth. Critics are more doubtful as it is being mostly negotiated in secret. Even MEPs do not have full access to documents. International campaigning has exposed some of the proposals and effects.

TTIP would give new powers to corporations to sue governments – effectively an end to democracy. Corporate courts (ISDS – Investor State Dispute Settlement), held secretly outside of the justice system, would allow foreign corporations privileged access to the law, placing the right to make profits above the human rights that we should all enjoy.

More privatisation of public services like the NHS and education, which would inevitably lead to higher costs for individuals

It would weaken workers’ rights and put millions of jobs at risk. Trade unions will be a thing of the past – in the US 23 states already do not allow trade unions to exist.

TTIP would reduce environmental protection and food safety regulations. Currently the EU has much higher standards on chemicals and pesticide controls than the US who want these reduced. For example, the US wants bans on the use of hormones in beef cattle production and restrictions on GM foods lifted.

Chemical standards relating to cosmetics will also be changed. In the US only 11 chemicals are currently banned for usage, in the EU it is 1,328

Medicinal drugs in the US have to be proved to be harmful before they are taken off the market, the opposite to Europe.

TTIP would be a blue print for future trade deals globally

Thomas Fine (Lead negotiator for Cross Border Services, US Trade Initiative) has been heard to say “If your NHS is up for sale, we want in.” That will create a real threat to our NHS.

This is a race to the bottom with significant financial risks

There is no way out once TTIP has been agreed with a 20 year get out notice clause for countries by when it will be too late.

More information can be found on the following websites:


Regional Briefing Meeting

Rob Beeston (Chair Greater London Region Retired Members) chaired the meeting that discussed which two motions to recommend putting forward for the NDC. (There were no motions from the GL Region to support.) Members were reminded about the effectiveness of collectively supporting two motions to go through to NDC but no effective decision was made on which motions to support.

Social Event

South Eastern region organised and sponsored a disco and raffle (proceeds to Prostate Cancer) in the evening which took place at the Waterfront Hotel, Renaissance Suite. They had 150 raffle prizes and collected £493. Three of us won prizes. A good time (networking) was had by all!

Wednesday 7th October

Unison’s President, Wendy Nicholls started the day by introducing herself and talking about her background. Her charity for the year is a special project in Gambia supporting Bijilo school. She then introduced the National Members’ Committee and the Mayor of Brighton, Linda Hyde, to Conference.

The Mayor welcomed us and told us that she used to be a member of Nalgo and is a member of the Royal British Legion. She believes in trade unions and regularly speaks with the Alex Knutson (Brighton and Hove Unison Branch Secretary) for advice and information. She said that retirement might signal the end of a career but not the end of engagement. She hoped we would enjoy the city and that we would always be welcome here in Brighton.

The President presented the Mayor with a Unison Sheaffer inscribed pen on behalf of Conference. This was followed by a minutes silence for those we have lost. Standing Orders Committee and Annual Report The SOC Report was presented by Ralph Murray (Eastern Region) chair of the SOC and accepted by conference. One of the decisions was to reduce the speaking time this year from 5minutes to 4minutes for movers/amendments and from 3minutes to 2 minutes for subsequent speakers and the right of reply. This will be reviewed annually.

David Kippest (Chair of the National Retired Members’ Committee) presented the annual report to conference, which was accepted. He suggested that conference support Composite A “Campaign for Living Pensions for the Elderly and Retired Members” and Motion 18 – “ Fuel Poverty, the Cold Truth” to go to NDC.

Motions and Amendments


There were 37 motions some of which had amendments, 3 composites and 1 emergency motion. The motions started in the morning and recommenced in the afternoon. In all 27 motions, the composites and the emergency motion were heard. Motion 13 “Dying Before Our Time” fell (no speaker) all the others were carried. A second emergency motion “Cap on Care Costs” was ruled out of order as it was not considered to be an emergency. There were no card votes.


The afternoon began with a speech from Dave Prentis our General Secretary. He started by saying that unions brings friendship as well as comradeship and shared aims, like a family. He described his grey hairs as being wisdom highlights. He went on to talk about the disgraceful comments and attacks on pensioners and the low paid. He started with Mr Alex Wild, Research Director the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Mr Wild apparently advised the government to cut all pensioner benefits now as “ they will not be here next election and those who are won’t remember who did it”. DP also cited Jeremy Hunt who is about to take away tax credits which effectively means someone on £18,000 pa will be £2,000 worse off.

We aspire to our members having a decent life. We aspire to convictions and decency. The government’s aspirations are purely financial.

Only our trade union has retired members that are listened to. Unison has 170, 946 retired members. That would make it the 6th largest trade union if it was standing alone.

Branch activists who stop retired members being active has got to stop. Retired members are the living history and the future! Retired members have the equivalent of 12,000 years of TU experience between them. With the Anti- Trade Union Bill everything is under attack. The retired members are needed to help both stop the bill and to help on a practical level in branches particularly with getting members to sign up and transfer their DOCAS payments to direct debit.

Two generations in two world wars gave their lives for a fairer society and “welfare” was born. New labour was wrong! There is no middle ground. They should have listened to Aneurin Bevin’s observation that “ those who walk down the middle of the road get run over.” Our work has just begun, let us protect our union, our services and all that we believe in.

David Kippest thanked Dave for his speech and announced that he had been awarded an honorary degree from the Open University in respect of Unison’s work in Lifelong Learning. The session on motions then resumed.

Close of Business

The two motions we put forward from our delegation for consideration to go to next year’s NDC (National Delegate Conference) are Motion 5: Two Tier State Pensions and Motion 25: Never too  old to agitate, educate and organise.

Motion 5 -Two Tier State Pension

(National Retired Members Committee)

In April 2016 a new state retirement pension scheme will be introduced, trumpeted by this government as being much better and fairer for all. However, when you look at the details there are several discrepancies.

Existing pensioners, in receipt of the current state retirement pension, will not be entitled to receive the new level of basic state pension. Although the method of indexation will be the same for both old and new schemes i.e. the triple lock, the implementation will result in a widening of the financial gap between the two pension payments. This is because the higher amount under the triple lock will be applied to the whole of the new pension, whilst it will only apply to the basic element of the old scheme and will not be payable on SERPS, S2P, Graduated element etc. which makes up the balance of the old pension scheme.

The motion calls on the National Retired Members’ Committee and the National Executive Council to campaign to right the injustice of a two tier state pension scheme and to ensure that the application of the method of indexation applies equally to both old and new state pensions.

Motion 25 – Never too old to Agitate, Educate and Organise

(Wolverhampton General)

The motion noted that over 65’s are a growing proportion of society and that this will have an impact on trade unions in a number of ways. The movers of the motion argued that trade unions must get better at engaging with older people and that Unison, with the largest and best organised trade union retired member’s section in the UK, is well placed to take a lead.

They therefore called on the National Retired Member’s Committee and (if necessary) the National Executive Council to do the following:

To ensure Unison’s ‘Charter for Older People’ is kept up to date and made widely available as a key piece of material to promote Unison to retired members, other older members and older people more widely.

Produce a regular electronic bulletin to keep members informed of campaigns, resources, research etcetera which Branch retired Members’ Groups can include in their programmes and members can take to other pensioners’ organisations.

Discuss with the Labour Link National Committee whether issues affecting older people get enough of its attention and if there appears to be a problem, how to overcome it.

Share information with other trade unions, seek to work together, raise appropriate matters with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and re-raise the need for the TUC to develop a stronger pensioners’ organisation.

Consult the Regional Retired Members’ Committee in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to discuss how their circumstances differ from those in England and how these points can be adapted in their respective regions.

We chose these motions from the selection put forward because we considered these would still be relevant at the time of the next NDC.

Next year ‘ s conference will beheld in Southport at the Conference Centre and in 2017 we will be in Llandudno, WalesSue and Dave and Rochana

Report by Sue Clark, Verena Beane

Contributions from Allen Hawley and Rochana Lowton

October 2015
Unison Retired members Annual Conference 2015
First time Delegate to Conference

Wow!! Attending a large National Conference can be daunting experience and confusing and feel like you are losing it. Initially I received a large amount of conference documents to familiarise with. There were listings of 37 motions, with composites and amendments. At conference everything moves very fast from delegates speaking on their motions and moving it with limited time given to them. This is followed by speakers on the amendments requesting support for it to be carried. Then there is time for right to ask questions etc. Motions are ruled out or fallen if there are no speakers moving it. Then suddenly the Chair stating that conference proposes the motion to be accepted and be carried and asking for show of hands “for or against.” Finally announcing the motion is carried.

For a first timer this can be confusing and may not be able to vote at the right time for the right motions. I was very lucky that Verena, Sue and Allen explained and briefed me all the way. This prepared me so I was able to enjoy the experience and build on my learning. It was fun meeting different people , networking and becoming aware of issues affecting different people.

It was not all hard work, there was also fun to be had and plotting what motions to support for them to be passed and taken to National Conference.

Rochana Lowton

Standing Orders Committee Meetings

I was nominated on to the Standing Orders Committee for 2015. I was a bit nervous as this Committee always had the air of mystique, but I was soon put at ease by the other members. It was not what I expected and it flowed very smoothly thanks to a good Chair. The first item on the agenda was the nomination of the Chair and Vice Chair. Ralph Murray (Eastern Region) was nominated as Chair and Ann Kippest (West Midlands) as Vice Chair. I was welcomed as a new member and invited to ask if I didn’t understand various aspects of the procedure (which I did).

Apologies followed. The Chair welcomed Jane Ellis back after her illness and Kathleen Jowitt was thanked for covering in the interim period. A review of last year’s conference took place culminating with asking that guest speakers keep to their allotted time. The Committee asked if Officers were inviting a guest speaker to please liaise with the Committee beforehand.

Speaking time was next on the agenda, it was agreed that speaking time for movers of motions have their time cut from five to four minutes and for subsequent speakers down form three to two minutes. The reason being that conference tended to reduce the time for motions in the afternoon and if movers had a written speech it would be unfair. This is to be reviewed annually. It was agreed that different topics are to be dealt with first in the following years.

There where 88 pages of Motions and Amendments of the document to address 62 Motions. It broke down to some being duplicated, 37 being passed, 21 not being competent. Passed were: Number of Motions and Categories

5 – Pensions

11 – Health Care.

4 – Universal Benefits.

9 – Communication and Internal Issues.

8 – Campaigning and Issues.

Ann Kippest compiled a Draft Order of Motions.

Two Motions from London Region where rejected: Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (Citizenship Issue) and Living Wage for Residential Care Workers (Pay and Conditions Issue).

All the Motions where addressed in the allotted time and the meeting finished on time. Considering the trepidation I put myself under reading the motions quite a number of times the effort paid off. I thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility and the nature of the meeting.

At my second meeting I was still learning the way the committee worked. The meeting followed the original format. Amendments to motions took the majority of the time discussing if they were out of order or not. An amendment calling for the title of the motion to be changed was deemed to be out of order as it would change the motion. Appeals were listened to and the appeals rejected as for the original reasons.

When raising motions for the Retired Members Conference, motions must relate to retired members and not deal with outside influences that we have no control over.

Composite motions were next to be dealt with. Conference arrangements were discussed, Standing Orders Committee guide lines updated and amended.

At conference we had another meeting the day before conference began to resolve any outstanding issues. We then had a meeting in the morning before the conference began, to ensure the conference went according to plan. I really enjoyed being part of this committee and have been nominated onto the training course, hopefully to be part of next year’s conference. I feel proud to represent our Branch at this level and hope to continue for years to come if nominated to the position. I would like to thank everybody that supported me.

Allen Hawley

Sue and rochabna


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Pension Increase next April

At April 2016, for the first time in around 35 years, the Basic State Pension is set to increase in line with average earnings under the terms of ‘triple lock’.

The National Average Earnings increase over May to July 2015 (compared with the same three months a year ago) was announced as 2.9%. So unless the government wants to go back on its word this should be the increase for the State Pension in April.

The cost of living figure used for the April increase is the previous September figure.

Under the triple lock announced in 2011 Basic State Pension will go up by the higher of:-

  1. Cost of living
  2. 2.5%
  3. Average earnings

As you can see from the chart below since the triple lock was introduced pensioners have been worse off until now because the government changed the inflation index from RPI to the lower CPI. It means the increases would have been over 1% higher if RPI had still been used for the cost of living for those who have been drawing their State Pension since before April 2011.

Their pension from their employer’s pension scheme is significantly worse off because only Basic State Pension has the triple lock and most pension scheme increases have been limited to the CPI ( although some private sector pensions still use RPI). Up to now those who retired before April 2011 are around 2.5% worse off based on CPI increases. Because CPI is negative this September they won’t get any increase at all in April 2016 so they are around 3.3% worse off from April 2016 (i.e. RPI 0.8% + 2.5%).

For a number of years CPI has also been applied to means tested benefits like Pensions Credit. We would hope this would hope the increase in April will not be zero.

Pension Increases


Triple lock under attack?

Already there are claims now that finally average earnings will be used to increase the State Pension in April this is ‘unaffordable’.

This ignores how pensioners have actually received lower pension increases because of the link to CPI.

It also conveniently forgets how the Basic State Pension declined relative to earnings after the earnings link to increases was last cut in 1980.

Is it fair to future generations? So should the benefits of today’s pensioners be cut back to pay for the future? This argument is flawed

It is the worsening of employer pension schemes and a ludicrously low minimum employer contribution to Auto Enrolment pension arrangements, and ever increasing state pension ages that are the real threats to future generations.

The State Pension (from April the Basic State Pension and Second State Pension will be combined) will become even more important for future generations to have adequate pension income.

So removing the triple lock would see another massive decline in relative value by the time they need a pension – so just about the worst thing you could do for future generations.

Will the negative CPI mean a decrease in pension?

Our advice is that pensions and deferred pensions will not be reduced. However it is possible the Government may try and push through a change as to how earnings in CARE schemes are revalued for public service workers at next April. They would need to get this through parliament where it would lead to negative revaluation.

Would they try and do this for just – 0.1% – we would of course oppose this.

[Report prepared by Glyn Jenkins, Head of Pensions UNISON]





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UNISON General Secretary’s Election

UNISON prides itself on its democratic principles. There is no bigger role in the union than that of general secretary. The ballot to select the next general secretary who will guide the union for the next 5 years will open at the end of November.

The Branch Committee unanimously voted to nominate John Burgess, the branch secretary of Barnet Branch.Burgess Corbyn

John Burgess has an impressive track record as Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary.

He has led sustained resistance against attacks on UNISON members; this has been lacking at a national level.

Under John’s leadership the branch has won concessions and dramatically slowed the pace of privatisation in opposition to politicians determined to see almost all jobs and services outsourced.

John is the candidate best placed to deliver the change our union desperately needs and to inspire UNISON members to fight back in the face of attacks on trade union rights and public service workers’ jobs, pay and conditions.

If you do not receive a ballot paper you can request a replacement any time from 16 November until noon on 1 December by calling 0800 0857857. The ballot closes at 5pm on 4 December 2015.

It’s your union and your vote counts. Be heard. Use your vote in our general secretary election.


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Pay Justice to for Local Government and

UNISON wants pay justice for you and everyone working in schools and local government and we have submitted a pay claim to the employers on your behalf that asks for:

• the scrapping of NJC and all local pay points which are below the UK Living Wage (and deletion of GLPC pay pointsMoney lower than the London Living Wage)

• a flat rate increase of £1 an hour on all other pay points

• the retention and protection of the Green Book Part 2 terms and conditions

• fair treatment for school support staff through a joint review of term time working.

We believe that our demand for the Living Wage and £1 an hour on pay points above it is fair and affordable.

For years now your pay has been lagging behind prices and we believe that this is bad for you and your family and bad for the services you provide to the public. Everyone benefits from public services that are provided by fairly paid, motivated and properly trained staff.

We want employers to demonstrate that they value your dedication and skills by protecting your terms and conditions – things like sick pay. We want the vital role of school support staff to be recognised and valued by giving you fair contracts so you can focus on the children in your school rather than be worrying about paying your bills.

Your pay matters. That’s why UNISON, alongside the other unions in local government and schools, is continuing to negotiate with employers to get youa better deal on pay. For years now youhave done more work for less money. Now it’s time to change that.

In 2015 your pay is worth 20% less than it was five years ago as a result of government pay freezes and pay rises that haven’t kept up with inflation. And, to add insult to injury, lots of you have seen other working conditions cut too. Now the Chancellor George Osborne wants to make life harder by putting a 1% cap on your pay so you will never make up the money you have lost.

He says that low paid workers will be better off with the new National Living Wage of £7.20 but that’s just not true. Any wage increase for the low paid as a result of the National Living Wage and the higher personal tax allowance will be clawed back through government cuts to working tax credits and the benefit threshold. And many councils say that 40% government cuts will leave them struggling to fund any pay increase at all for our members earning above the new National Living Wage – so nobody wins.

We can’t go on like this. You can’t be expected to continue providing vital local services while your pay spirals downwards and your working conditions get worse. And as your pay falls, so does your pension.

Your goodwill is being abused. In the face of cuts and job losses everywhere, you are holding communities together while services are swamped by public demand.

Employers’ expectations have increased too. No wonder workload and stress levels are going through the roof and morale is at rock bottom!

UNISON is campaigning for central government to provide additional funding for councils and for the LGA to restore decent pay levels for the entire workforce. That is our priority and we need your help.

Please go to where you will find more details about what we are doing about pay in schools and local government. Then sign up to be part of our campaign so that we can send you updates. Then you can make your voice heard on pay by getting involved in campaign actions.

And perhaps you could encourage your colleagues to sign up too so they can be part of our campaign for pay justice.

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