Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sunday Herald: Scottish union leaders' statements on defending pensions

From Sunday Herald 26 June

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser UNISON, was one of several union leaders asked by the Sunday Herald to comment on pensions. Dave said:

UNISON Scotland welcomed the statement by Finance Secretary John Swinney that increased pension contributions will place an unnecessary burden on public service workers who are already suffering from pay restraint and rising living costs.

He also correctly identified the damage these plans will do to the Scottish economy, undermining consumer confidence and the fragile recovery. These additional contributions are not necessary to fund pensions in Scotland; they are simply a ‘tax’ on staff to pay back government debts that were raised to bail out the banks.

This is not simply a UK issue. The Finance Secretary must face up to the challenges facing Scottish workers and not blindly follow the ConDem coalition’s plans. Only the NHS and teachers costs are scored against Barnett, although the Treasury would like him to levy on other schemes. However, that would simply be a Scottish ‘tax’ on members of the local government scheme.

The NHS scheme is a ‘pay as you go’ scheme with contributions and benefits paid out of revenue. In the last three years, net cashflow has been around £2 billion (positive) in each year. The Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme is a funded scheme, in good financial health, to the extent that no increased contributions are likely to be required over the next few years.

UNISON has a credible track record of constructive negotiation in Scotland over pension reform, but Hutton [the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission under Lord Hutton] did not recommend a 50% increase in contributions. That is a Treasury cash grab with not one penny going to Scottish pension schemes. It will inevitably lead to staff opting out of pensions, as Hutton himself has recently warned, with serious consequences for benefits and public spending.

The Scottish Government can and must find a better way by working with the trade unions to examine all the available options to avoid this disaster...

Full statements here (free registration needed)

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