Thursday, 10 November 2011

Executive Report: November 2011

The full executive met on 10th November, at Hamilton House.

Christine Blower opened by reporting that the NAHT had voted in favour of taking strike action with a healthy majority- although this now goes to their national executive for consideration. Unison has also voted to strike on November 30th. GMB, Prospect and the FDA ballots continue, as does the NAHT.

The booklet Fair Pensions for All is being launched and is being sent out soon- this is about pensions in general: looking at public, private and state. It points out that only Estonia, Latvia and Cyprus have lower state pensions than the UK, and unpicks the scandal about private pension provision in this country.

Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney congratulated Emily and Chris, our parliamentary team, for the Lobby of Parliament, where over 2,000 lobbied their MP over pensions. 75% of MPs were seen on the day, and others are being followed up in their own constituency. Colleagues had reported that a number of Tory MPs at the Lobby of Parliament appeared to be rather discomforted by the fact that there had been no revaluation. Some MP's had been under the misapprehension that a valuation had been done; others seemed to be under the impression that it was somehow difficult to carry out a valuation of an "unfunded" (ie. not a separate pot of money) scheme. It isn't and had been done regularly for many years !

The “concessions” -such as they are- from Danny Alexander were outlined.

The protection for members in the 50-60 age bracket (55-65 for members in the LGPS) is indeed a concession that we have won, however is it enough to sell other colleagues down the river ?

The change in accrual rates from 65ths to 60ths is not an “improvement”: simply retaining where we are now. The original plans were a worsening of accrual rates, so we are back where we started (the older scheme is calculated on 80ths, but also includes the lump sum of 3/80ths for every year of service)

The government claims that these will be the last changes to the pension system "for a generation": but no future government can be bound to it. The mechanism for automatic increases in retirement age mean that colleagues could be forced

Kevin noted that it is the action and campaigning by the NUT and the other trade unions that has pressed the Government to these concessions- however we need to win more. At this moment, no further dates have been set for the central negotiations, which suggests that the Government is not willing to negotiate further, except in the scheme-specific talks. All of these are being restrained within the Government’s imposed “cost ceiling”. All of the unions are in agreement that there is no realistic prospect of a deal while this arbitrary cost ceiling is in place.

We are actively taking part in scheme-specific negotiation over details , but are not prepared to concede our key principles. We will be carrying out a survey of members to gauge their feelings on the Government’s latest position, and to inform the executive on the opinion of the members we represent.

Kevin urged executive members and their activists to build for the 30th November. It is also important to counter the Government spin- especially the claims that somehow members will get higher pensions- this is not a fair comparison as they are looking at teachers working to 68 without taking into account career progression through career-averaging. A range of material will be coming into schools and to members soon.

I raised with Kevin the importance of continuing to hammer home the point that the Government continues to refuse to carry out the long-overdue revaluation of the scheme, to tell us how much money is in there. It was reported that Danny Alexander has stated in Parliament that there won’t be a revaluation until the changes have been made ! This is a key point to keep pressing whenever we are making our point in this dispute.

Senior Solicitor Clive Romain reported on the legal challenge to the imposed move in calculating pension increases (including for existing retired teachers) from RPI to CPI inflation. After a three day hearing, we were now waiting for a judgment- likely to be before the 30th November !

Christine also reported on the 20th Black Teachers conference was extremely well supported: Christine enjoyed the sessions she was able to attend. Also looking forward to the LGBT Conference this weekend (that I shall be chairing) Christine noted that Max Hyde has been invited to chair the next TUC Women's Conference.

The full executive later voted unanimously to endorse the position taken by Christine and Kevin in the negotiations.

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