Thursday, 31 May 2012

UNISON Local Government SGE agrees extensive member consultation on new LGPS

The Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) met today and considered two motions concerned with the process for consulting members over the new LGPS proposals: Bearing in mind the LGPS includes members in five different Service Groups, and the union has already decided the ultimate decision will rest with an individual member ballot, the first motion, following, sets out a methodical and comprehensive engagement of members, branches and Regions:

'This SGE shares the frustration over delays in being able to commence discussion and consultation over proposals for a revised LGPS.

We reiterate our position that UNISON’s ultimate acceptance or rejection of any proposals will be determined through an individual postal ballot of all affected members. We further reiterate that any recommendation to accompany a ballot must follow consideration by the five Service Group Executives with LGPS members, whose decisions should be informed by the fullest possible advance consultation with members, regions and branches.

We recognise that changes to the LGPS would affect current and future members differently when viewed over short, medium and longer terms, taking account of factors such as age, service, employment status, job security, earnings, career development opportunity, job plans, domestic circumstances and personal choices. Because of this - and the highly complex nature of pensions - it is essential that sufficient time is allowed for the wide range of local government members, branches and Regions to properly consider any proposals before a recommendation is made and a ballot opens.

To ensure the fullest possible participation and representative decision making, this SGE agrees the following consultation process:

1. When consultation can begin, a ballot timetable is set that provides sufficient time for consultation and briefings with members, branches and Regions prior to the SGE's meeting to consider a recommendation and the ballot opening.

2. At the earliest opportunity, the proposals are widely publicised to members, branches and Regions through all appropriate forms. Information and presentation materials will be provided and made widely available that include explaining the technical details, a ‘plain language’ guide and worked examples. If possible to produce accurately, we would also like an interactive ready reckoner.

3. A template is provided to branches who will consult as many members as possible, recording how this was done, numbers involved and views expressed in respect of the proposals. Branches will submit the completed template to Regions, and it will also guide representative branch views at Regional briefings.

4. Regional joint Service Group briefings will be held, followed by a meeting of the Regional Local Government Service Group including SGE representatives.

5. A UK joint Service Group briefing will be held to include receiving feedback from all the Regional briefings and the collated Regional branch consultation returns, followed by a meeting of the Local Government SGE to consider a recommendation to accompany the ballot.

This SGE further agrees:

6. To inform the Chairs and Secretaries of the four other relevant Service Groups of this consultation process for their information and own consideration.

7. To publicise this consultation process to members, branches and Regions and include it within the report on the LGPS to Local Government Conference.'

The second motion concerns itself with the more narrow question of a Conference recommendation:

'This SGE recognises that any proposals for the future LGPS can only be decided by ballots of members in the relevant Service Groups. We believe however that Conference should have the right to debate and make recommendations if possible. Should final proposals on the new LGPS be available before or during the Local Government Service Group Conference on 17/18 June this SGE therefore resolves to approach the SOC to facilitate a debate at Conference to enable it to make a recommendation in any ballot.'

The SGE agreed the first motion, which seems an eminently sensible position in the circumstances as the LGPS proposals were only released today and Conference is just 2 weeks away. Given negotiations have been protracted and pensions affect people in very individual ways it is surely important that members have adequate time to digest the proposals and their representatives then accurately and honestly represent members views, not just their own reactions.

That is an inclusive, accountable and democratic approach for a member led union.

Of course, 2 weeks is a very long time in politics and it will now be interesting to see whether some will seek to try and use the forthcoming Conference to recommend rejecting the proposals.

On the other hand, from an initial reading of them, perhaps others may also seek to recommend accepting the proposals.