Union members in the local government pension scheme in England and Wales to vote on changes following N30 strike last year. (Pictured: UNISON workers picketing in Sheffield, 30 November 2012)

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UNISON is urging tens of thousands of local government and higher education workers to take part in a ballot – which opens today – on the government’s proposed changes to their pension.

(Pictured: UNISON workers picketing in Sheffield, 30 November 2012)

Senior activists from the local government sector are recommending that members vote to accept the plans, while the higher education group executive is calling on members to reject the proposals.

In all, four out of the five UNISON service groups are recommending a vote ‘YES’ in the ballot.

They argue that the pensions of people approaching retirement will not be affected and that the contribution rates for workers earning up to £34,000 remain either unchanged or only marginally increased.

The proposals for England and Wales follow lengthy negotiations in the wake of the mass public sector pensions strike in November 2012, between local authorities and the main local government unions, UNISON, Unite and the GMB.

Both GMB and Unite members are currently balloting on the proposals, which are due to come into effect from 2014.

The leadership of both unions is recommending a “YES” vote.

However, UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group Executive is recommending that members reject the plans.

It says the benefits associated with a final salary scheme are generally better than a career average scheme of the kind contained in the current proposals.

Unions elsewhere in the education sector, such as NASUWT, NUT and UCU have still not accepted draft government proposals on pensions reform and say they may take further industrial action over the issue.

The Local Government Pension Scheme is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.

UNISON members have taken part in two separate strikes – in 2006 and 2011 – against Labour and now Coalition government plans to change the local government scheme.

The ballot closes on 24 August.

There are separate negotiations on pensions for local government workers in Scotland and Northern Ireland.


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