The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the regulations that apply to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).
Among the changes they are proposing is one that will remove the legal requirement for Sixth Form Colleges, Further Education Colleges and Post 1992 Universities to offer LGPS membership to all support staff employed by the institution. UNISON believes that this is a unwarranted and grievous attack on the pension rights of our members.
Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges and former polytechnics were historically part of local authorities up until 1992. When they were created as separate employers in 1992, they were listed as ‘scheduled bodies’ in the LGPS regulations. This meant that they were legally obliged to offer LGPS membership to any member of staff not on a teaching contract.
The government is proposing to remove this requirement and give institutions the choice of whether to offer LGPS membership to new staff in these institutions. It is not proposing to change the pension arrangements of current members of the scheme. Whilst these proposals will only affect new staff at the moment, our experience shows that this is normally the way that pension schemes are undermined for all members by attacking future members of the scheme first.
We believe that this is a serious threat to the future of the LGPS. Members in FE and HE make up around 20% of the scheme membership of the LGPS and if they are no longer providing new members to the scheme, its whole future will be undermined.
The government argues that as these organisations are no longer considered to be part of the public sector, they should not have the same obligations as local authorities and schools to offer membership of a public sector pension scheme. This is of course a total fallacy as these institutions are almost entirely dependent on public funding to operate.
Where we have seen employers move away from the LGPS, they have normally offered significantly inferior defined contribution schemes to employees. It is also likely to open the door for other types of employer to no longer offer LGPS to all staff.
These changes are likely to disproportionately affect the lowest paid staff and it is doubly unfair as there are no proposals to introduce similar arrangements for the Teacher’s Pension Scheme that these employers are required to offer to teaching staff.
UNISON has already written to the minister responsible outlining our objections to these proposals and also objecting to the way in which they have been announced without prior notification to the LGPS unions or to the LGPS Strategic Advisory Board. We are seeking an urgent meeting with the minister on these proposals.
UNISON will be providing a further detailed briefing to members and branches shortly on the proposals.
The UNISON higher education, further education committees will be meeting to consider a joint strategy to oppose these changes. We will also be working with other unions and the TUC to co-ordinate opposition to these changes.
The consultation closes on 31 July and we encourage all our FE and HE members to respond. Details on how to respond can be found via the link above.
We are also aware that many employers will oppose these changes, given how unfair they are on their staff. If you are aware that your employer would oppose these changes, please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org
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