Sunday, March 01, 2015

"...thieves and con merchants to steal and feast upon our members pensions..."

This was my speech to the UNISON Community Conference yesterday on Pensions. The Composite motion had been moved by Community member June Poole from Rochdale Local Government Branch on behalf of National Women's Committee.

It was very positive to see the motion being seconded by a delegate from Ymlaen/Forward – Unison Cymru, who reminded us to make sure we get representation for our sector on the new Local Government Pension Boards.

"Conference, John Gray, NEC member for Community, speaking on behalf of the Service Group Executive, in favour of Composite A.

Conference, let us never forget that Pensions are a fundamental trade union issue. In fact one of the founder unions that went to form UNISON was set up specifically to argue for pensions for its members.

As a housing officer in the east end of London, I see first hand the miserable and degrading poverty that so many of our elders live in. Too frightened to put the heating on in winter, surviving on cheap out of date foodstuffs, too poor to buy their grandchildren treats.

In many ways, the current situation facing workers is now even worse. Millions of workers in our sector have no access to any employer pension, since they work part time or are paid too little. Millions more are being cheated by their employer with tiny and inadequate contributions.

While complete untruths are said about the sustainability of defined benefit schemes such as the Social Housing Pension Scheme (SHPS).

To top it all Conference, this Tory led government, will from April 6, allow thieves and con merchants to steal and feast upon our members pensions, in what I have no doubt will be the greatest ever miss-selling scandal.

Conference, Pensions are expensive.

There is no getting away from this. The employer has to pay enough money into a pension scheme to allow its workers to retire in dignity.

The State must also play its part by providing funding for our services which will ensure there is enough money to pay for pensions. But don't forget that the top 15 housing association made over £1 billion surplus last year, yet many pay rubbish pension contributions to their workers.

Equally employers who have left or are threatening to leave our existing defined benefit schemes, know it is a simple lie, that you will get rid of any so called "deficit" if they leave. In fact it can make it worse.

While those of us still in the Local Government Pension Scheme, see the financial service industry continue to rip us off on charges and an often rotten and undemocratic governance structure.

Conference. We can make a change. In Australia where many pension funds are run by trade unions, they have used their organising and political power to make it the law that all employers have to contribute 12% of pay into a workers pension.

We have to organise and campaign for decent pensions with our own employers and we have to ensure that we use our political influence and clout, not only to get more money to fund decent pensions in our sector, but to win the wider political argument.

That we want to live in a more equal and just society, that simply will not tolerate poverty for the old or any body else for that matter and will do whatever is necessary to bring about change.

Conference, Go back to your branches and organise, campaign and fight for your pension futures, Conference, Please support this motion. Thank you.

(the motion was passed unanimously and hat tip picture to branch delegate Ionela Flood) 
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