UK Facing Local Government
By Meagan Rees, IPE.com
Trade unions for the local government are due to start balloting their workers on strike action over pensions reform in a move labeled "deeply disappointing" by the Local Government Association.
The call by trade unions follows consultations with the LGA and Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) about proposed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme.
"It is deeply disappointing that even before the consultation period is over, and any decisions have been made, the unions have chosen to look at strike action," said LGA chairman Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart in statement.
"It is equally frustrating that the unions appear to be breaking a clear agreement with us and the ODPM over the timetable for the long-term reform of the Local Government Pension Scheme."
According to the LGA, the uneven balance between employee staff contributions and employer council tax contributions must be addressed. The current employee contribution stands at roughly 6%, while the employer contribution is more than double this.
"The council taxpayer simply cannot pay more," said Bruce-Lockhart. "The changes to local government staff pensions are both needed and necessary.
"Unless action is taken in the very near future, the cost to individual council tax payers and local government because people are living longer will continue to rise."
Bruce-Lockhart added that an essential element of the changes was to halt pressure on council taxpayers, while ensuring local government remains an attractive place to work.
"People are living longer and unless the current pensions scheme for council staff means that early retirement on full pension is not an economically viable solution for council taxpayers and employers, and not fair to many employees," he said.
The time frame for a reform of the Scheme has been pegged at around October 2007. This "is when the age discrimination legislation comes in," said an LGA spokesperson.
"This is generally when most people expect things to have changed, but talks are ongoing."
The consultation period commenced on 5 December 2005 and was due to last until 28 February. Some of the unions involved in the talks include NAPO, T&G, Amicus, GMB and UNISON. The LGA stated that negotiations are still ongoing, despite the threat of strike action by unions.
The LGA spokesperson said: "We will be submitting our proposals in the coming couple of weeks before the consultation process closes."
However, any changes to the scheme will have to be approved by the ODPM.
The Scheme - which has several schemes in operation - has roughly 1.2m members.