UNISON spells out further demands for talks following meeting of more than 250 reps, officials and activists


UNISON reps have voted to accept the government’s “Heads of Agreement” proposals for reform of public sector pensions.

The document was drawn up following the 30th November strike (above).

There will now follow intense negotiations across the different schemes to try to improve the framework for reform signed by negotiators last month.

Reps say they expect talks to draw up a final offer covering NHS staff may be completed by the end of the month – after which, any offer will be put to a ballot of members.

Parallel talks covering the local government, higher education and other sectors are likely to be much more drawn out and could continue well into the spring.

One senior official told UnionNews: “This was always about negotiating a deal for our members. That’s what we’re about.”

The Heads of Agreement signed on 19th December proposes new career average schemes to replace the current final salary one. It also provides what the document calls ‘full protection of benefits and retirement age for members within 10 years of their normal retirement age’.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary said: “UNISON is a democratic union, and in today’s consultation, our elected activists from every service group in the local government pensions scheme endorsed the framework proposals we have negotiated, paving the way for more in depth talks.

“Our health members gave their support to talks on the NHS scheme entering a final phase, due to end in late January. When we have a final offer, we will take it back to members in a full ballot.

“Our action on 30 November got ministers back to the table, since then we have made some real progress. No contribution rises in local government until 2014 will be a real boost for many families that are hard hit by the pay freeze, and struggling to cope. The overwhelming majority of NHS scheme members won’t face contribution rate rises in 2012.

“We will continue to campaign to secure the best possible deal, which our members will then be consulted on. Should negotiations fail, our industrial action ballot, which remains live, gives us the option to take more strike action.”

UnionNews understands the decision to accept the document as the basis for further talks was backed overwhelmingly by local government and health sector reps.

In higher education, negotiators have been asked to seek to preserve the current final salary scheme as well as seeking to de-link the retirement age on the occupational scheme and the state pension, as the Treasury has demanded.

In all sectors, reps said they had agreed there was not a strong appetite for further, sustained, industrial action while negotiations over pension reform were underway.

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