HUNTINGDONSHIRE UNISON would like to apologise to any members of the public inconvenienced by our one day strike on March 28. It is not a decision that I or any of the other hundreds of staff from the branch on that day took lightly, but we are faced with
HUNTINGDONSHIRE UNISON would like to apologise to any members of the public inconvenienced by our one day strike on March 28. It is not a decision that I or any of the other hundreds of staff from the branch on that day took lightly, but we are faced with no other options on this issue. People lost up to £70 for a day's work as a consequence of taking strike action.
Most local government workers earn low wages. One of the few 'perks' of the job is a reasonably good pension scheme that allows people to retire - as do the teachers, NHS, and civil service pension schemes - if their age and the number of years' service combined reaches 85. Realistically, this means between 60 and 65 for most officers.
The Government wants to change this unilaterally, citing a variety of reasons: EU case law - that the relevant European Commissioner says does not apply to us. Expense - is it local government officers' fault that the county council has failed for a number of years to pay into the scheme? And the Council Tax burden - some newspapers will tell you that 20 per cent of your Council Tax goes to fund pensions.
Your Council Tax actually accounts for only a quarter or less of local government expenditure, and hence pensions account for around six per cent of local government resources. If these officers do not retire, they will be costing you a lot more as wage earners of the council.
UNISON has even offered to concede that new joiners to the scheme will not have the same options as existing staff, but the Government has refused even to consider this. They have already announced that existing teachers, NHS employees and civil servants will be exempt from the new regulations. All we are asking for is the same treatment.
Sadly, unless the Government shifts its stance on this, further industrial action is likely in the near future. I would encourage you strongly to write to John Prescott at the ODPM, to let him know your views.
RIC EUTENEUER, Branch Communications Officer, Huntingdonshire UNISON