Pensions: Councils plan for the worst as unions ballot on strike action

Local government HR directors are working to ensure that services are not crippled by a proposed nationwide strike over pensions.

Councils are anticipating a prolonged period of industrial unrest as public sector unions representing local government workers prepare to announce the result of a strike ballot early next week.

The dispute centres on draft regulations that would reduce benefits for about two million members of the local government pension scheme (LGPS).

Unions want local government workers to be given the same treatment as other public sector workers whose pension rights are fully protected, such as staff in the Civil Service, police officers and firefighters. They are also angry at the scrapping of the so-called ‘rule of 85’, which allows

LGPS members to retire at 60 on a full pensions if their age and years of service add up to 85.

The Local Government Association has said changes to the scheme were “both needed and necessary”.

Gill Hibberd, corporate director of HR and organisational development at Buckinghamshire County Council, said that any strike action would be bad news for the authority.

“Our response has to be spot on to minimise any disruption,” she said. “We are talking with the unions to agree exemptions for certain critical services. It is then up to individuals whether they want to cross the picket line.”

Stephen Moir, HR director at Cambridgeshire County Council, said the council was communicating directly with LGPS members and non-unionised staff to ensure they get as much information as possible. He admitted it was very frustrating having to deal locally with a national industrial relations issue.

“Usually we have open and constructive relations with our unions, but there is very little we can do at the moment,” he said.
Jeff Dean, director of personnel services at Gateshead County Council, said the council expected a lot of support for the action and that it had discussions planned with its unions.

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