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PENSIONS: UNIONS SUSPEND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

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At a meeting of all the unions representing members covered by the Local Government Pension scheme this morning a p...
At a meeting of all the unions representing members covered by the Local Government Pension scheme this morning a proposed joint statement with the Local Government Association was unanimously recommended for endorsement. Each of the unions will now urgently be holding their necessary internal consultations on that recommendation.

The joint statement which has already been endorsed by the Local Government Association is the result of detailed informal discussions over recent days. It establishes the framework for the detailed negotiations on future local government pensions.

To facilitate these negotiations it is being recommended that all the industrial action currently planned should be suspended.

Commenting on behalf of all the trade unions, Trade Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber said:

'I am very pleased that it has now been possible to agree with the local government employers a sensible framework for the detailed negotiations necessary on the future of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Those negotiations will focus on the proper protections for the pension arrangements of existing staff and the long term. The industrial action by workers covered by the LGPS demonstrated their absolute determination to secure pensions justice. These negotiations now offer a positive route forward to secure fairness and high quality pensions for all workers covered by the LGPS in the future.

'It is intended that these negotiations will be commenced urgently.'

Statement from the LGA follows.

'STRIKE SUSPENSION WILL BE RELIEF TO EMPLOYEES, EMPLOYERS AND LOCAL PEOPLE'

Commenting on the decision by unions representing members covered by the Local Government Pension Scheme to suspend further industrial action, Local Government Association chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said:

'It will come as a relief to employees, employers and local people that this industrial action has been suspended. The Local Government Association will be working hard in meaningful discussions with the unions to come up with a long term reform of the Local Government Pension Scheme that is fair to employees, continues to make local government an attractive place to work in and is affordable for council taxpayers.'

A copy of the joint statement from the LGA who represent employers and the unions representing employees can be found below:

Local Government Pension Scheme

1. The statement by the Minister for Local Government on 30th March laying Parliamentary Orders, including the Order to abolish the Rule of 85 from October 2006, provides a framework for developing a new-look scheme. He said that 'in the light of discussions held yesterday with the Trade Unions and Local Government Employers, we are calling on both sides to begin talks, to start now on a nothing rule in nothing ruled out basis, to address the protection of existing Scheme members, the recycling of savings, and the development of a more equitable Scheme'.

The Minister also said on 28th March that 'a key element of these discussions which have already begun within the framework provided by the Tripartite Committee will be to address positively the concerns expressed about the position of existing scheme members who contrast their particular circumstances with the agreement reached in October 2005 by other but unfunded public service Pension Schemes. The government intends that these reforms can be guided by the principle that up to half of the savings achieved by the final removal of the rule of 85 can be re-cycled into the development of whatever benefit package is felt by the Stakeholders and membership to be appropriate for the new-look 2008 Scheme'.

2. All participants are firmly committed to change in pension provision, now and in the future, being made by agreement as far as possible, respecting the role of the DPM as regulator.

3. This commitment to create a new-look scheme should encompass all issues raised by the participants within the context of the Parliamentary orders and related Ministerial statements. The scheme must be sustainable and affordable for employers and as a key element of the renumeration, recruitment and retention package for Local Government employees and those belonging to admitted bodies.

4. The following specific action points are emphasised by the participants to be addressed during this process:

- Work to resolve the outstanding differences in relevant actuarial assessments to be undertaken immediately and all emerging proposals to be assessed by professional advisers appointed by the participants.

- 50% of the savings accruing from the abolition of the Rule of 85, and of savings from the revised commutation arrangements, to be made available to fund scheme improvements, including protection arrangements for existing staff, and creating a more equitable and affordable Scheme.

- Urgent negotiations to take place incorporating discussions on affordable protection to existing staff, including full protection, and on developing a good quality, sustainable and affordable new-look LGPS going forward, equality proofed with greater choice and flexibility on when and how members move from employment to retirement and having regard to the respective contributions of employers and employees, taking account of appropriate actuarial and legal advice.

5. All participants are committed to concluding the first phase of these negotiations in order to report to the Tripartite Committee in June. The Minister said in his 30th March statement that 'the Government stands prepared to introduce further amendments before the summer recess to update the regulations in the light of any agreed proposals which emerge from the talks between the Trade Unions and Local Government Employers'.

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