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NIPSA Reports N SPECIAL EDITIO BLIC DEFENDING PU PAIGN SERVICES CAM

THE NEWSPAPER OF THE LEADING PUBLIC SERVICE TRADE UNION September-October 2013 Tel: 028 90661831 www.nipsa.org.uk

Save Exploris campaign - see pages 4 and 5

PROMOTING YOUR INTERESTS, WORKING ON YOUR BEHALF

THIS SPECIAL edition of NIPSA Reports is specifically designed to give members a better idea as to the comprehensive work undertaken by the union across a wide range of sectors on behalf of members. We exist to promote and advance your interests and we take this responsibility seriously. Much of what we do on an everyday basis goes unreported. Examples of this include representing members in matters of discipline, grievance, sick absence reviews and dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment. A central feature of the work of the union is providing support in

job evaluation cases. It is widely recognised that NIPSA has delivered substantial benefits to thousands of members on account of our expertise in job evaluation and our commitment to securing the best possible outcome in pay and grading terms. Likewise, our local health and safety representatives tirelessly work to ensure your safety at work. Without their efforts and the negotiated frameworks they enforce, there would be no impediment to employers short-circuiting any safety procedure that suited them to do so. NIPSA, representing in the main public sector workers, has always recognised the close con-

nections between government policies and the wellbeing of members. That is why in the last number of years we have been highlighting a range of government policies and initiatives which present a real threat to members’ jobs, pensions, pay and other important terms and conditions of employment. We are experiencing a period in which the hard-fought-for and long-standing advances in workers’ rights, standards of living and social security protection are being seriously undermined and diluted. In this way, jobs and services, pay, pensions and other terms

and conditions of employment are threatened by privatisation as the private sector reap the profits brought about by reducing wages and shedding jobs. The protection of our members’ interests and the services they deliver to the community is our primary responsibility. This publication will, I hope, inform members of some of the important work that NIPSA is currently engaged in on your behalf. Please read this publication and pass it on to your colleagues. Brian Campfield, NIPSA General Secretary


NIPSA leading from the front in protecting jobs and workplace rights

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NEWS

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WANTED: ACTION FOR JOBS – NOT ATTACKS ON WELFARE NIPSA members protesting against the private health care providers using the facilties at South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen, earlier this year.

NIPSA welcomed the research published by the Centre for Economic Empowerment on the impact of welfare ‘reform’ on the economy of Northern Ireland. This report, commissioned by NICVA estimates that “when the reforms have come into full effect it is estimated that they will take £750m per year from the NI economy, or £650 for every adult of working age.” Alison Millar, NIPSA said: “This is a staggering figure and much more than previously estimated. What this clearly signals is that the

reform of the welfare system is not about helping the low-paid or in work families or the sick or disabled it is about saving money for the government. It is not about stimulating the economy but about punishing those who have lost their jobs, or who are seeking work and cannot find any. “This report clearly demonstrates that NI will loose significantly and more businesses including local shops and restaurants will be forced to close as those who are on social security benefits or are in low paid jobs mainly spend their

money in their local communities. “The NI Assembly must take notice of this excellent report and ensure that all in society are treated with respect, dignity and ensure that those who need a social security system at any point in their lives are not driven further into poverty.” The full report can be accessed on: http://www.nicva.org/sites/default/files/IMPACT%20OF%20WELFARE%20REFORM%20A4. pdf

NIPSA’s opposition to ‘crippling cutbacks’ at Western Health Trust

THE Western Health Trust – which covers Fermanagh – has come under a scathing attack after details of a £4.6m budget slash revealed proposals that could “cripple” hospital services.

for NIPSA said they will have immediate consultations with its members. The long list of services that will be hit by financial cuts include palliative care, respite for disabled children, reduction in nursing staff and cover for health professionals among many more. The proposals to slash health services include a 50 per cent reduction in NIPSA official, Alan Law, said the letter painted a ‘very dire picture’. health professionals, 25% decline in cover for medical staff and a cap on expen“One area identified for savings includes the capping of expenditure on lab diture on lab tests. The sweeping cuts were laid bare in a letter leaked to NIPSA, a public service chemicals, the Trust identifies how this will delay diagnosis and impact on the timely treatment of patients. union, which has now threatened industrial action. “The proposals also include plans to reduce by 25% all unfunded staff in The four-page letter, sent from Lesley Mitchell, the Western Trust’s Director of Finance, highlights how the proposals will “compromise the quality of care” and wards, slashing £1.1million from the budget which in their own words will result in the “quality of care being compromised and the closure of an entire ward”.” could result in the closure of an “entire ward”. “NIPSA believes this is the true face of Transforming Your Care and calls on The letter also outlines the devastating ripple effects and major impact the the Minister of Health Edwin Poots to intervene to ensure patient safety is not £4.6m savings will have on hospitals. It goes on to say: “A range of other servcompromised. ices across the entire Trust will be crippled if these plans are implemented in“NIPSA calls for the Trust to refuse to implement these savings and demands cluding reduction of hospital beds, closure of residential homes and the action from the assembly Health Committee. decimation of domiciliary care.” Source: Fermanagh Herald In response to the deepening crisis within the Western Trust, a spokesperson


PROFITING FROM POLICING

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NEWS

ON July 16, 2012, Resource Group circulated an ‘e-update’ to all its employees. Pride of place was the announcement that the company secured “the PSNI Support Services contract” a development which the firm considered “massively significant”. The significance of the £180 million contract was not lost on NIPSA either and the union immediately started taking legal action and a Judicial Review hearing was concluded in July 2013. NIPSA members will have heard repeated assertions that there is no reason to be alarmed at the use of such contracts. Senior police representatives, including the Chief Constable, have attempted to play down allegations that these contracts amount to privatisation or that current staff will be impacted. NIPSA Reports has already carried a number of articles on the subject. We asked Assistant Secretary RYAN McKINNEY to summarise the main points:

BY THE time the real effects of this contract are felt, it will be too late to reverse the decision or repair the damage, a line will have been crossed.

Using Resource Group to provide staff to carry out CCTV monitoring or act as Station Enquiry Assistants for instance will undermine the historical position where only staff under the control and direction of the Chief Constable and ultimately accountable to the Policing Board were permitted to carry out police support functions. This not only weakens the democratic control which the public have over the provision of public services but introduces into the equation a third party; one which has an obligation to shareholders to deliver financial dividends. Neither the existing police staff or Resource Group employees will benefit from this contract in the long run. Resource employees will work alongside PSNI staff who are better paid and have superior terms and conditions whereas any examination of what Resource Group refer to as ‘employee benefits’ will reveal the company favours offering shopping discounts rather than collectively negotiated pay rates. Resource even includes enrolment in the statutory National Employment Savings Trust as a benefit! They announce that to potential recruits that they will contribute an initial 2% to this so-called pension but fail to reveal that for existing PSNI support staff there is an employer contribution of around 19%. Existing PSNI support staff don’t feel reassured

by ‘promises’ that their job is secure because they are well aware that both PSNI and Resource Group have stated that the existing contract can be expanded into other roles, and Resource are committed to building on the contract. It is certainly possible to see a situation where more than the initial 1,000 Resource employees are working within the PSNI, some GB police forces have already outsourced investigatory functions, for instance. It is logical, therefore, that in only a few years the position of those staff historically on Civil Service rates of pay will be transformed by the downward drag created by underpaid and altogether more ‘flexible’ Resource staff. The only real guarantee is that PSNI support staff will be seen as a burden and their more favourable terms and conditions a cost which the police will want to cut. It’s alright senior police officials saying that this is not their aim but this is the logic of outsourcing as evidenced in other public sector organisations. There is also the elephant which escaped from the room, the thorny issue of ‘retiring and rehiring’. NIPSA have publicly condemned this practice which has caused a significant detriment to our members who have had careers paths curtailed by the return of former police officers to civilian roles. The Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee is due to conclude its report into this practice in the autumn and NIPSA hope that they make the connection between outsourcing and use of agency workers and the ease with which

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the Patten recommendations are undermined. Either way, it is certain that there has been a lack of succession planning which has meant in the short-term skills are retained at the cost of longer-term investment in recruitment of new staff. It is also worth repeating that in an era when 25% of our young people cannot find a job, it is quite legitimate to question the re-employment of retired staff. It is frustrating that despite the evidence to the contrary, there is continued belief among senior public servants and politicians that private sector companies will put their drive to make profits to one side and actually put people first when contracted to deliver public services. NIPSA has already gathered evidence of instances where the service to the public has suffered because of the use of outsourcing in the PSNI. It appears that even the so-called benefits of outsourcing are overplayed as police officers have had to fill gaps in the Resource Group contract. Regardless of the outcome of the Judicial Review, NIPSA will continue to campaign against the privatisation of policing. Everyone working within the police service deserves decent rates of pay and terms and conditions which are negotiated with their trade union and, ultimately, there should be no room for profit in the delivery of essential public services such as this one. NIPSA Reports will of course keep members upto-date on developments, particularly in relation to the outcome of the legal proceedings.

Organise to protect services, jobs, pay and pensions YOU HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY...SUPPORT YOUR UNION AND YOUR COLLEAGUES Visit http://www.nipsa.org.uk AND give a like to our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter


Exploris: fate

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NIPSA has vowed to apply “maximum pressure” to the Northern Ireland Executive and elected representatives in a bid to secure funding to prevent the closure of the Exploris centre. It follows the shock decision by Ards Borough Council’s Development Committee to recommend the move at the Council’s meeting on September 25. The union understands that this was not a unanimous decision. However, at the September 25 meeting, councillors agreed to defer the decision about the aquarium’s future for two months. This came after significant pressure came from a number of groups, including NIPSA and Friends of Exploris, and followed a swiftly-organised protest attended by several hundred people. In her address to the Council, NIPSA Official Antoinette McMillen argued for a deferment for at least four to six months The development has shown that NIPSA was absolutely right in fighting to protect Exploris staff who were faced with a downgrading of their terms and conditions after the Council decided to privatise the facility last year. NIPSA then entered into talks with private company Livingstone Leisure over the transfer arrangements for

NEWS

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save the aquarium at a public meeting in Portaferry on September 30. The union has also written to a wide range of politicians, including MPs and Ministers – particularly those with Education, Environment, Tourism and Culture portfolios – to press them to come up with a financial package to secure funding to keep this important facility open. NIPSA has called for the facility to be upgraded so it can become, according to a NIPSA source, “a jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland’s leading tourism and educational attractions”. NIPSA members and supporters of Save Exploris outside Ards Council offices Alison Millar told NIPSA Reports: “A number of local businesses have alstaff. NIPSA argued successfully that councillors who had previously voted TUPE should apply and that any new to close and dispose of the facility had ready been in touch with the union voicing their concerns that they will pension provision would be required to been put under pressure to reverse have to close (or are certainly under provide a comparable pension and their decision as it was they who prothreat of closure) if Exploris closes as pension benefits for existing staff. posed the two-month deferral. they derive significant income from visLivingstone Leisure after a number “While two months deferral is a very itors who visit the aquarium and then of months of talks decided not to proshort window of opportunity, NIPSA will spend time in the town. ceed with the running of the centre, cit- work to secure maximum pressure on “The next two months will be an exing that they could not afford the the Northern Ireland Executive and tremely busy and important time for pension provision in place for existing elected representatives to ensure that NIPSA in seeking to secure the future staff. Regional funding is secured for this im- of Exploris as a facility for all the citiIt was within days of this that the De- portant facility.” zens of Northern Ireland and wider velopment Committee moved to agree Not only a tourist attraction, Exploris afield who come year on year to this a recommendation to close the facility. also provides a programme of educaarea. Deputy General Secretary Alison Mil- tion as part of its outreach to schools. “In addition NIPSA is seeking to selar, who attended the September 25 And in 2010, a STEM report estimated cure the future of the employees and meeting, said: “It was clear from the that it contributed £300,000 to the local their families who depend on working outset of the meeting that tensions economy. in Exploris and the seal sanctuary for their livelihood.” were running high as some of those NIPSA launched its campaign to

Privatisation threat at LPS

IN APRIL, NIPSA branches within DFP Land and Property Services (LPS) reacted angrily to news that management intended to launch a review of the revenue and benefits section. According to its terms of reference, the review was set up to “research, analyse and evaluate the viability of outsourcing the LPS benefits and revenue services and to make recommendations on the most appropriate future delivery of these services.” And in terms of project outputs, the review’s terms of reference included “evaluation and analysis of the viability of outsourcing the revenue and benefits services of LPS”. It added that this would include “assessing the commercial viability of outsourcing and potential impact on performance and value for money.”

Members working at LPS met in May, with many of those present voicing fears about their jobs, pay, terms and conditions as well as pensions and staff numbers. NIPSA Official Noel Griffin, speaking at the meeting, said: “Make no mistake this review is about privatising work currently undertaken by civil servants, of which the vast majority are NIPSA members. “If the review recommends outsourcing and that is accepted by the Department, approximately 350-400 existing posts will be under threat. That includes NICS terms and conditions.” Mr Griffin pointed out that it was a “difficult issue for NIPSA to grapple with” and said the union, despite its long-standing opposition to privatisation, could not “ignore the review and allow management a free rein”.

He added: “With the full support of the local branch we intend to do everything possible to ensure ‘Revs and Bens’ work remains within the NICS and are not handed over to the private sector. “We have established a local team of branch representatives to assist NIPSA Headquarters and the DFP TUS Office to ensure the service provided by our members is protected.” An urgent meeting with Management Side was subsequently organised at which the draft terms of reference were discussed ensuring TUS had an input at every stage of the review. In reply to a management claim that the review was about replacing the rating IT system and not outsourcing, Noel Griffin said: “That is somewhat misleading since the background to the project clearly states that prior to a

procurement, IT process commencing, consideration is given to the viability of outsourcing the revenue and benefits service.” Meanwhile, TUS were advised that a number of local councils in Great Britain were visited by the review team during the summer months. In particular, TUS welcomed the fact that one of these councils had previously outsourced their Council Tax Collection Services but had recently brought it back ‘in-house’. NIPSA also contacted this particular council’s trade union. Meanwhile, at a recent meeting with LPS management, TUS requested a pre- report meeting with the review team. This is provisionally scheduled for later this month. It is understood the review will be published following the meeting.


not yet sealed NEWS

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NIPSA vows to fight closure

NIPSA, the largest public sector trade union in Northern Ireland has pledged it will resist the closure of the Portaferry Exploris Aquarium facility. NIPSA General Secretary Brian Campfield stated: “NIPSA has been making the case for a number of years that Exploris needs a proper investment programme to ensure that Northern Ireland has a first class state-of-the-art aquarium which can be utilised for both tourism and educational purposes and we are concerned that the objective of Ards Borough Council has, for some years, been either to close or privatise the facility. “To close this facility would be bordering on the criminal and NIPSA will be organising robust opposition to any plans to close the facility. “While the jobs provided at the facility are important the closure of Exploris would be extremely damaging to tourism and the local economy. We are calling upon on public representatives and local community and business interests to put their weight and influence behind an immediate campaign to keep Exploris open and for adequate investment in the facility to ensure its long term future.” Commenting further Mr Campfield said: “Exploris, is in essence a regional facility and it should not be left to Ard’s Borough Council to make a decision to close it nor should the council be asked to shoulder the financial cost on its own. “We are calling on the NI executive to intervene with a commitment to safeguarding Exploris for both the short and the long term.” He concluded: “We are calling on all political parties in Northern Ireland to show the same unity and determination displayed by them in their support for the campaign to retain the Driver Vehicle Agency in Coleraine. It makes no difference to the employees and the local community whether decisions to close public sector facilities and destroy jobs are made at Westminster or our own Assembly.”

Threat to Civil Service Pensions Branch IN JUNE, Trade Union Side were advised of Management Side’s intention to launch a project to replace current IT support for pension administration and financial services (including payroll). The Civil Service Pensions Branch – based in Waterside House, Derry – carries out work for the Department of Finance and Personnel on the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (NI) [PCSPS (NI)] and its associated schemes. A market engagement exercise was also carried out and an outline business case prepared. In mid-August, Trade Union Side were told by Management Side about further developments which

appeared to be at an advanced stage. TUS made strong representations to Management Side – in particular about the compete lack of formal meaningful consultation. Trade Union Side also requested copies of the market engagement exercise including responses received including the outline business case. A copy of the draft outline business case was further requested on the basis that Trade Union Side would consider it before it was passed to DFP Finance. At a packed meeting on September 20, NIPSA Official Noel Griffin outlined the potential impact on

members’ jobs and to the service they provide. He said: “While local TUS have been provided with information about this major project, there has been no attempt by Management Side to take part in genuine consultation with NIPSA. “One of the main options under consideration involved the outsourcing of pension administration to a third party supplier – in other words, privatisation. The potential impact on members’ jobs, terms and conditions would be significant.” Mr Griffin said: “Every effort will be made by NIPSA to halt this privatisation of our members’ pension

administration. It will ultimately impact upon every single member of the PCSPS. “The jobs of our members who have administered the scheme efficiently and effectively over many years are clearly under threat.” He vowed: “Our campaign to protect our members’ jobs by retaining the administration of the scheme in house starts today!”

A meeting with Management Side is currently being arranged to find out specific details of the project and to ensure there is full consultation. Members are also to lobby MLAs and MPs about the potential loss of jobs in the North West.


ANGER OVER DVA ‘BIASED COMMENTS’

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NEWS

Opponents of the DVA closure at a mass meeting in Coleraine

NIPSA has signalled its intention to seek legal advice over ‘bias’ comments that appeared in the consultation document on the future of Vehicle Licensing and Registration in Northern Ireland. Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, in a speech in the Commons earlier this month, said: “I must stress that there was no intention to imply that anyone at the staff of the DVA may be biased in any way.” However, NIPSA Assistant Secretary Ryan

McKinney claimed the Minister’s clarification far from settled the matter. He told NIPSA Reports: “The point is that the consultation could potentially be fundamentally flawed by the inclusion of the offensive statement in the first place. “We feel that the statement is prejudicial to the consultation and belies an underlying hostility to staff based in Northern Ireland. We have instructed our lawyers to explore a number of options and these could include seeking

ASSISTANT General Secretary Ryan McKinney, speaking at the same meeting, countered claims that the move to centralise vehicle licensing services would lead to a “quicker, better service”. He flagged up points being pushed by advocates for change that were “being reported as fact despite our efforts to challenge them”. Setting out instead what he called “genuine facts”, he pointed out that productivity targets in Coleraine were currently much better than those proposed under the consultation. He told the meeting: “Coleraine’s target is to issue 95% of refunds within five days –

this will now slip to 30!” and queried whether such a service was indeed “quicker”. Mr McKinney also claimed that a survey of local car dealers had indicated their preference for dealing with local motor tax offices or by telephone with Coleraine, adding that “both of these options are to be abolished – that is not ‘better’.” He also dissected the claim that the move would save the taxpayer £12 million a year, pointing out that initial transformation costs alone would amount to £18 million.

leave for a judicial review.” NIPSA represents more than 300 at the DVA, who face an uncertain future if the Coalition Government presses ahead with the centralisation of all vehicle licensing services to Swansea. Mr McKinney pointed out the impact of such a move would involve more than the loss of jobs. He said: “It is serious enough that jobs are at risk and the desperate economic situation

could be damage cerning is that the service will suffer to motor traders w backlogs such as by dealers in Sco “We intend ma have set up a Ste cians, staff and b bring this campa ple who rely on th

Mr McKinney warned that a further 1.5 private sector jobs would be lost for every public sector post that goes to the wall. This, he claimed, would translate to a loss of 500 jobs to the local economy in Coleraine. “We hear every day how expensive economic inactivity is for taxpayers and yet these proposals will mean an additional cost in social security benefits of £3 million a year. “When looked at across the whole of the UK, this will outweigh the proposed savings.”

Mr McKinney DVA had been “ tackling tax eva “In 1996 the r By last year this That means mo duction will of c There is a real a exasion will inc established her councils and th He concluded clear to [Roads mond that what better service w service.”

‘Quicker, better’ service claims rubb

Devastating impact DVLA move will have o

NIPSA General Secretary Brian Campfield has vowed the union “will seize every opportunity” to underline the “exceptionally devastating” impact the centralisation of vehicle licensing services to Swansea, Wales, will have on local jobs and the wider Northern Ireland economy. He made his comments to a packed meeting of more than 100 people at the Lodge Hotel, Coleraine, on September 5. A decision by DVLA to withdraw more than 300 vehicle licensing jobs will have serious consequences for Coleraine in particular, where almost 80% of the jobs are located. Mr Campfield pointed out that 1,200 jobs had already gone as vehicle licensing offices “from Aberdeen to Brighton, from Norwich to Bristol” had closed since last year. There was, he added, “a clear political agenda” coming from Westminster to remove these posts and claimed NIPSA had managed to “hold up a decision [being taken] on Coleraine”. “We have now to seize every opportunity to make the case. An important part of that is highlighting the exceptionally devastating impact that the loss of jobs, particularly here in Coleraine, would have on the local economy and the people who rely on it.”

Coleraine is a small town, with a population of around 24,000, so the loss of jobs on the scale envisaged will have a major impact on its economy and people. It has suffered a 9.2% decline in employee jobs between 2007 and 2011 equating to 2,096 jobs. Mr Campfield flagged up a number of reasons why the move to Wales had to be resisted. Outlining how the loss of vehicle licensing jobs was equivalent to the withdrawal of more than £22m a year from the local economy, he warned: “All sectors of the economy would be impacted by this multiplier effect, most notably wholesale and retail, accommodation and food services, entertainment and recreation.” Mr Campfield told the meeting: “This is certainly the weakest the Northern Ireland economy has been since at least the mid1990s. “In 2012 there were around 3,000 redundancies in Northern Ireland, an increase of more than 50% on the previous year. To put that in context, the number of staff involved in vehicle licensing represents around 10% of that annual total. “The claimant count in Northern Ireland has increased to

7.1%, with nearly 65,000 people related benefits. This is the seco behind that for the North East. S Northern Ireland figure and the f been widening sharply.” Mr Campfield said it was vital “wholly disproportionate” impact land which he added was emerg conflict”. He slammed, in particular, wha clusion” of derogatory remarks i gesting that any move to Swans bias”, “Let me be absolutely clear he ered this service with a custome is no evidence of religious bias a been made anywhere other than “The inclusion, however, sugg of Tory Ministers is alive and kic and indeed say anything, to see


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ed further but what is also cone public have no idea that the r. Indeed, NIPSA have spoken who are already fearful of s those currently experienced otland. king the public aware and eering Committee with politibusiness representatives to ign to the attention of the peohe service.”

bished

also underlined how the “particularly effective” in asion. ate of evasion here was 10%. s had decreased to 0.7%. ore tax is collected so any recourse mean fewer ‘savings’. and genuine concern that tax crease once the partnerships re between the DVA, locals he police are lost.” d: “We must make it crystal Minister] Stephen Hamt he claims will be a quicker, will in fact be a slower, worse

on town

e now claiming unemploymentond highest figure in the UK, just Since 2009, the gap between the figure for the UK as a whole has

that DVLA recognised the the move have on Northern Ireging from a “sustained period of

at he termed the “distasteful inn a consultation document sugsea “might eliminate religious

ere. Our members have deliver satisfaction rate of 98%. There and the suggestion has never n in this document. ests that the pro-austerity bias king and they will do anything, it through.”

SOCIAL HOUSING SHOULD REMAIN IN PUBLIC HANDS NEWS

NIPSA has launched a new report into social housing provision in Northern Ireland. Titled, Keep Our Housing Public, the research was carried out by Queen’s academic Stewart Smyth. It follows Minister Nelson McCausland’s announcement in January about the future delivery of social housing. If adopted, the Minister’s proposals will lead to the break-up of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and its replacement by a Regional Housing Body within the public sector with landlord functions carried out outside of the public sector. Since then there has been little debate on the proposals, but NIPSA has been active in highlighting the issue and has spoken to a number of local politicians as well as undertaking the research. Mr Smyth was commissioned by the union to look into the experience of large-scale voluntary transfers in Britain and to develop a number of alternative policy models. Keep Our Housing Public was launched on Monday, September 23 at Parliament Buildings in Stormont. Green Party MLA Steven Agnew sponsored the launch. Opening the event, Deputy General Secretary Alison Millar

pointed out that there had been little debate about the delivery of social housing since Minister McCausland’s announced his proposals. She said: “NIPSA commissioned this research to open that debate as we do not share the Minister’s view that the current model is ‘simply not sustainable’. “NIPSA believe that the NIHE as an overarching body providing both a strategic function and a landlord function is absolutely sustainable and the Minister’s view is a cynical attempt to effectively privatise social housing in Northern Ireland. “It is an attempt to distance government from its responsibility for the provision of social housing. NIPSA believe that before such a radical step is taken, there needs to be a wide debate among political representatives, tenants, community groups and other key stakeholders into the Minister’s proposals and that all options and alternatives are fully explored and exhausted. “NIPSA believes an alternative must be found and for this reason NIPSA commissioned Stewart Smyth to carry out independent academic research into alternative models of social housing provision, including examining what has happened elsewhere, which would ensure that social housing would con-

Presenting NIPSA’s report on social housing at Stormont are: (l-r) Deputy General Secretary, Alison Millar, report author Stewart Smyth and NIHE branch 503 rep, John Morrison

£250 for FE sector members earning less than £21k

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tinue to be provided from within the public sector.” In his contribution, Stewart Smyth pointed out that PWC had described the NIHE as “one of the success stories from Northern Ireland recent history. Since its introduction nearly 40 years ago it has delivered significant social benefits throughout Northern Ireland with the quality of the housing stock having moved from one of the worst in Western Europe to what is now regarded as best quality stock. It is rightly regarded nationally and internationally as a leading authority on best practice on both housing management and community building.” Mr Smyth added that a 2009 Savills report into the condition of housing stock had flagged up that NIHE housing stock was “by far the best quality housing stock that we have inspected. NIHE has maintained the stock to a high standard and the work undertaken has been completed to a high standard”. This legacy was now being threatened by stock transfer proposals of the Northern Ireland Executive. He said the research showed that, despite claims to the contrary, stock transfer constitutes a form of privatisation. The central purpose of a stock transfer is to raise private finance, using the housing stock as security. This means there is an element of profit-making via a third party, whether that is a bank or other finance provider or by the issuing of bonds in the capital markets or, for the larger associations, ways are being found to access funds through listing on the stock markets. Therefore, housing associations must act like businesses, rather than a public service. Therefore this results in practice in the prioritisation of the interests of the finance provider ahead of the interests of tenants. In 2011, the NIHE transferred 55 homes on the Creggan estate to Apex Housing Association.

NIPSA has described as a “significant victory” an agreement brokered with the DEL Minister that will see FE Sector staff who earn £21,000 or less (prorata for part-time employees) pocket a £250 payment for 2010/11 and 2011/12 Union officials have flagged up its significance as the union had been seeking to resolve the issue since the summer of 2011. The agreement brings NIPSA members in the FE sector into line with union members across the Education sector, Libraries, NICS and Local Government.

Despite promises given to tenants of modest rent increases, the fact is that several months after the transfer, rents have spiralled by more than 28.5%. Had the NIHE been allowed to raise the finance to do the work, rents would have risen from the pre-improvement rent of £52.43 per week to £53.93 for a threebedroom house. To date no-one has tried to argue that rents will not rise but tenants, once they become aware of this may have something to say about this, particularly because of impending changes because of the so called ‘bedroom tax’. A major criticism by the stock transfer process is the loss of democratic accountability – housing associations as private bodies are not subject to democratic accountability. Mr Stewart also set out a number of alternatives in Section 3 of his report. In doing so he highlighted a number of important points. Buried in the PWC report is a statement that the landlord function of the NIHE is largely financially sustainable. The three alternatives cited in the report are: n A level playing field being created with England, Scotland and Wales who have been allowed to borrow prudently within the Prudential Borrowing Framework. This would allow the NIHE to access private finance without the consent of central government providing they stay within certain limits; n Change the borrowing rules – to allow the NIHE to borrow the money. n Invest in the future – If the Northern Ireland Executive is serious about meeting the expected future housing need, there has to be more money available to the NIHE. The full report and short guide can be accessed on the NIPSA website at: http://www.nipsa.org.uk/Campaigns/Keep-our-HousingPublic/Campaign-launch

Assistant Secretary, Paddy Mackel, told NIPSA Reports: “This is an important development and demonstrates clearly the value of being a member of a trade union. “Our members who are low paid workers will now receive a small – but not insignificant – financial boost in these difficult economic times.” He added: “NIPSA members should remind any work colleagues who may not be in a union of the benefits of union membership and collective bargaining unions deliver for members.”


STRIKE THREAT LOOMS IN ROW OVER LACK OF CONSULTATION BY DOE NEWS

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NIPSA has issued a threat of possible industrial action in a Review of Public Administration row with the Department of Environment over what the union says is the department’s failure to consult with its staff over proposed changes. The Department of the Environment (DOE) has created the potential for a major dispute within local government through bringing forward the Local Government (Statutory Transition Committees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 to the Assembly in late June the regulations came into effect from early July. There was no consultation with NIPSA or the Trade Union Side of the Local Government Reform Joint Forum (LGRJF), despite the fact Clause 18 clearly impacts on staff. There is also the potential for industrial action should the avenues currently being applied fail to resolve the issue, in particular any application of clause 18(3). Other serious questions as to the 2015 implementation date have arisen with the Boundaries Commissioner

convening nine public inquiries into the structure of electoral areas. The DOE also failed to have the main re-organisation Bill introduced into the Assembly before the summer recess. Yet again local government staff are being treated in a less-favourable manner than those in the Civil Service, Health & Social Care and Education sectors in respect of RPA. NIPSA has made it clear to the DOE and local government employers that it is not prepared to stand by and see this happen. A clear warning by NIPSA has been issued to the DOE that the consequences of its actions will have an impact on the implementation arrangements for local government RPA.” NIPSA has been pursuing the matter in various arenas including the LGRJF, the Local Government Staff Commission, directly with the DOE and is also examining various potential legal remedies. Clause 18 not only provides for the pubic appointment of chief executives

Who knows when ESA will be set up but I’m hedging my bets!

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and the politicisation of the appointments process with the requirement for a two-thirds majority of the Statutory Transition Committee to approve the appointment, more worryingly, it opens up all appointments to public advertisement. A sub clause 18(3) states: “A Statutory Transition Committee may appoint other staff to the new Council for its district as it deems appropriate.” According to the union, this represents a flagrant and unilateral reneging of previous commitments over how TUPE is applied to Local Government RPA and a total usurping of the RPA Guiding Principles as determined by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and issued by the Northern Ireland Executive. As a consequence of the introduction of the regulations and comments made by a senior DOE official at an RPA implementation body, TUS sought a commitment of the LGRJF Management Side on August 7 that: (i) the Department would move to rescind clause 18; and (ii) that the Management Side reaf-

ALTHOUGH there was some confidence among officials earlier this year that the Education and Skills Authority would finally be set up – with April 1, October 1 or December 31 as possible dates, it is now becoming clear that, with no political agreement reached before the summer recess at Stormont, yet another year is set to go by before the body comes into being. NIPSA Official Paddy Mackel said: “Cynics may suggest that political parties are not likely to reach agreement after six or seven years of delay and argument over ESA but I would remind people that there were some who also thought the High Hedges Act 2011 would not be passed. “Admittedly there are slightly more complex issues involved in the ESA draft bill but if politicians can reach agreement that two meters is high enough for a hedge, then surely anything is possible.” He added: “On a serious note, if ESA is to be established, there are important issues to be resolved for members, not least

firm its commitment to the application of TUPE, as per Guiding Principle 3 sub para 2.1. No commitment was given to rescind clause 18(3) and an evasive, non-committed and wholly-unacceptable response was given to the TUPE question. It could only be concluded on the TUPE point that the DOE has reneged on its application. The current position is that NIPSA has embarked on the following action: (i) a meeting has been sought with the DOE Minister; (ii) a meeting has been sought with the Public Service Commission; (iii) the DOE Permanent Secretary has been written to asking that as head of the Department, he confirms that TUPE does apply, without any caveats; (iv) a further special meeting of the LGRJF has been arranged; and (v) discussions are continuing with NIPSA’s legal advisers as to a range of potential legal actions.

around who will be the employer, but also around protections for staff, location of jobs and the impact of new organisational structures on staff. “NIPSA has played a key role in the ICTU Education Trade Union Group in making strong representations on behalf of members to ESA, the Department of Education officials, the Assembly’s Education Committee and the Minister to ensure that members’ interests and terms and conditions will be fully protected if and when ESA is set up. NIPSA will continue to work through the range of issues with the help of additional secondment positions provided for by the Department, to ensure that members’ interests are fully taken into account in the months ahead. “In the meantime, the union will keep a close eye on developments through a hole in the nearest hedge.”


Support petition for NICS Equal Pay

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NEWS

NIPSA is to raise the issue of the NICS equal pay settlement as it is applied to those members who have worked for the PSNI and/or NIO with Finance Minister Simon Hamilton. This follows comments made by both Mr Hamilton and First Minister Peter Robinson in relation to the issue. Mr Robinson, in responding to a query from constituents, said he had “consistently argued within government” that there was a “moral duty” to help those who had been discriminated against by the NIO decision not to fulfil its obligation to staff. He added that he had spoken about the matter to the current Finance Minister. And Mr Hamilton, in turn, has also spoken about this “incredible sympathy” for those seeking consistent application of the equal pay settlement. In reply to a recent question put by a DUP colleague in the Assembly, he said: “I have spoken to many colleagues over the past couple of weeks, notably the First Minister, the Member himself, Mr McCrea, who is sitting on his left and, indeed, many others in the Assembly, who have expressed their concerns and the strong feeling that they have that there is a moral case for us to address. “However, I am conscious of the danger of raising expectations unnecessarily. “A lot of people were let down in the past, and I do not want in any way to raise their expectations that this can be resolved. “However, I make it clear that I am carefully considering options on the issue. I have asked officials to prepare a paper on how a payment could be made, how much of such a payment could be made and what the ramifications might be. “To make that a reality, I am mindful that I might require broader political support in the Executive and, indeed, the Assembly. There are issues and challenges with this matter, but I am carefully considering it, and I hope that what I have said today might give some comfort to those in the PSNI and the NIO that their case is being taken seriously.” NIPSA is to raise the statement with Mr Hamilton and find out what scope there is to settle the issue. In the meantime, the union is taking the following steps: n NIPSA has launched an online petition calling on the Finance Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive to authorise access to the terms of the NICS equal pay settlement. The union is encouraging members to sign the petition (see link below). n Members are being asked to attend constituency clinics held by their political representatives to discuss what practical support they will give to having this matter resolved, and n Arrangements are being made for a further

Members ‘anxious’ over Area Plans

NIPSA Assistant General Secretary Kieran Bannon speaking at Equal Pay demo on Stormont steps

protest at Stormont. Assistant General Secretary Kieran Bannon told NIPSA Reports: “The union is writing to the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee requesting that it renews its call on the Finance Minister to extend the terms of the equal pay settlement to those with service/past service in the PSNI and/or NIO. “This was the position adopted by the Committee in May 2012 following the conclusion of taking evidence. “It is important that we continue to make representations at all levels and that members continue to participate in the actions being taken forward. “Given the recent statements by senior political representatives, we must seize this opportunity in seeking to get justice for those denied the full benefit of the equal pay settlement negotiated by NIPSA.” You can sign the peitition at the following 38 Degrees link: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/access-tonics-equal-pay-settlement-petition

NIPSA Education Official Paddy Mackel has admitted some members working in the sector will be feeling anxious about the future with regard to the Area Plans being developed by the Education and Library Boards for local primary schools. He predicted that the coming year would be busy for NIPSA Education branches in dealing with the proposals. Mr Mackel told NIPSA Reports: “Some members will be anxious about the position in the coming months as proposals are brought forward to amalgamate or

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NI Civil Service Compensation Scheme is under attack

DESPITE the introduction of a revised redundancy compensation scheme in the UK Civil Service in 2010, NIPSA continued to oppose this inferior scheme being applied to staff in the Northern Ireland Civil Service and related NDPBs. Unfortunately, the Northern Ireland Assembly did amend the NI Superannuation Order 1972 which removed the veto from NIPSA and other trade unions over any detrimental changes to the redundancy compensation scheme. This was done despite strenuous objections from NIPSA. As part of evidence NIPSA presented to the Assembly’s Finance and Personnel Committee, the union had argued that if the veto was removed, then the NICS would proceed to apply these extremely detrimental changes. General Secretary Brian Campfield told NIPSA Reports: “We were proven correct on this count and over the past year we have spent considerable time attempting to persuade the Department of Finance and Personnel from diminishing the compensation entitlement of staff who are made redundant, either on a voluntary or compulsory basis.” The draft legislation to give effect to these changes is currently out for consultation and NIPSA will be making a strong case to the Assembly that the legislation should be rejected. Mr Campfield continued: “We will also be providing a brief to members to enable representations to be made by them – as constituents – to MLAs. NIPSA will also be making direct representations to MLAs on this issue. “We are not prepared to countenance an attack on redundancy entitlements for staff losing their jobs especially as in the current economic environment there is little likelihood of redundant civil servants securing alternative employment. “We are not prepared to allow these detrimental changes, which are also likely to apply to staff who are dismissed on sickness/inefficiency grounds, without doing our utmost to prevent them from being introduced in Northern Ireland. “Branches are also being requested to consider whether members would be prepared to engage in industrial action as part of our campaign to stop this attack on important terms and conditions.”

merge schools or close some schools altogether, with some new schools also being built. “NIPSA Branches will have to work closely with members and, on occasion, other interested groups to ensure that the union does everything possible to represent members’ interests and resist closures where appropriate.” He added: “Centrally NIPSA will continue to engage with employers and the Department to reach agreement on protection arrangements for staff.”


WE WON’T TAKE THE FALL NEWS

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Working to keep Belfast City Council leisure services public BELFAST City Council has decided to invest more than £100m on revamping its leisure services stock and has commissioned consultancy firm Deloitte to produce a report on the delivery options. While the report rules out a purely private sector solution, its first preference is to remove the delivery of leisure services from Council control and to use a voluntary body with charitable status to deliver the services. NIPSA has joined other recognised trade unions in Belfast City Council to make it clear that while unions are prepared to cooperate on the appropriate public sector model, they robustly oppose both a private sector or a charitable status organisation model to deliver leisure services in the city. Talks have started with the Council with unions setting as their priority the retention of leisure services provision in-

house, run by the Council on behalf of the community with no diminution of the pay, pensions and other terms and conditions of employment of both existing and future employees. Public services, including leisure, cannot be delivered on the cheap. Decent pay, pensions as well as workers’ terms and conditions of employment should not be sacrificed to cut the cost of delivering the service. NIPSA also believes that the Council and the workforce should jointly examine ways in which local communities can have a greater say in the running of services. NIPSA leisure representatives are actively involved in these negotiations to ensure that the interests of workers are not sidelined and that high quality state-of-the-art leisure services are available to all the people of Belfast.

NIPSA to meet new Derry City Council workers vote yes Finance Minister

NIPSA was scheduled to meet the new Finance Minister Simon Hamilton in October to discuss a number of public sector issues following the hand-over of the portfolio from outgoing Minister Sammy Wilson. The new Minister’s first address was at a breakfast meeting with the Confederation of British Industry. While it contained many positive references to the role of the public sector – including a statement that the size of the public sector was not

the problem – he did announce the setting up of a Public Sector Reform Division (PSRD) within his Department. The disappointing aspect of Mr Hamilton’s inaugural speech was his reference to the potential to use the private and voluntary sectors to deliver public services. Since the PSRD announcement, Colin Sullivan has been named as the civil servant to take charge of this work. Recommendations and proposals coming from

this new Division within DFP will potentially have important consequences for NIPSA members across the public sector. NIPSA will be endeavouring to ensure that both Minister and the PSRD will not be able to disregard the case for public services being delivered within a public service environment with the accompanying level of democratic accountability that goes with public servants delivering public services.

for strike ballot

NIPSA members employed by Derry City Council voted unanimously to commence a statutory ballot to include strike action and action short of strike action following the decision by Council management to proceed with compulsory redundancies. NIPSA HQ Official, Alan Law commented: “NIPSA has been demanding that management withdraw the redundancy notices and embark on negotiations to resolve this dispute, a formal request was made to

make a presentation to the Council’s Staff Committee but this was turned down by Town Clerk – Sharon O’Connor. We are calling on Councillors who have contacted NIPSA to voice their opposition to the redundancies to demand a stop to these plans. NIPSA has requested an assurance that there will be no more compulsory redundancies, however Ms O’Connor has refused to give this commitment.”


£142,000 pay plus £15,000 perks for new NIHE boss is

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NEWS

APPALLING NIPSA is appalled to learn that the newly created Director of Transformation of the Housing Executive will receive a salary of £142,000 plus relocation and travel costs of up to £15,000 per annum. This is at a time when staff have yet to receive any increase in their pay. Alison Millar, Deputy General Secretary said: “At a time of public sector pay restraint it is unbelievable that the person who has been offered the post will be paid circa £50,000 per annum more than existing Director level posts in the Housing Executive plus accommodation and travel costs. If this individual applied through

open competition for a post in Northern Ireland on a substantial salary – then why should the tax payer ultimately pay their accommodation and travel costs of up to £15,000 per annum. “In addition staff in the Housing Executive have not received any pay increase since 2009 and this year, having been awarded a meagre 1% pay increase, have yet to receive their contractual entitlement. “For NIHE staff the DSD and DFP are insisting that staff cannot receive their due increases until it is approved by both Departments and signed off by the Finance Minister.”

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Union welcomes council membership recognition support at leisure centre Greenvale Leisure Centre

NIPSA has welcomed the motion which was adopted at Magherafelt Council in September, calling for access by the trade union NIPSA to the workforce and Trade Union recognition within Pulse in Greenvale Leisure Centre. Prior to the privatisation of the leisure services at Greenvale Leisure Centre, NIPSA had members who worked in Magherafelt Council and following the threat of compulsory redundancy had no option but to apply for jobs in the newly privatised operation. These jobs were advertised on Magherafelt Council’s website, and attracted a lesser rate of pay. Had the old Greenvale remained open until the new facility was ready the staff would have transferred and NIPSA would have, because of the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations been automatically recognised by PULSE. NIPSA has contacted PULSE on a number of occasions to request access to the Leisure Centre to speak with staff about the bene-

fits of NIPSA membership. However, the Management at PULSE have refused to have even a preliminary meeting. NIPSA finds this approach totally unacceptable and ask PULSE to explain publicly the reasons they are so adverse to speaking to the trade union? PULSE management have stated that no member of staff have approached them about Trade Union membership. This is not surprising as NIPSA believes that this is the case because staff are now well aware of PULSE’s hostile attitude to Unions. NIPSA will be contacting PULSE management in Greenvale Leisure Centre shortly to request a meeting seeking discussions on the adoption of a positive approach to trade union recognition at their operation at Greenvale. It is unacceptable that an organisation wholly funded by public money, including its profit, should take an openly hostile attitude to the right to workers to organise.

NIPSA has warned that privatisation is to be stepped up as part of the out workings of Transforming Your Care programme, a programme endorsed by Minister Poots, the NI Executive and the Health and Social Care Board. At the September meeting of the HCSB in Derry, NIPSA who represent over 9000 members in the Social Work and Social Care grades, organised a rally in opposition to the continued threatened proposed closures of residential homes. Kevin McCabe, NIPSA Assistant Secretary said: “The HSCB travel to Derry to conduct one of their monthly public meetings as part of our continued opposition to the proposed closure of statutory Residen-

tial Homes we have sought speaking rights with the Board to engage and ascertain from them how they now propose to move on this issue given a decision by the Minister back in May 2013 to halt this process but allow the HSCB to advance this matter on his behalf. NIPSA is under no illusions that the plan fundamentally has not changed and that homes, if not all, but a majority will close. “NIPSA has organised a rally at this Board meeting to highlight our ongoing concerns about the plight of our elderly population who still run the risk of being impacted by further cuts in the Health Service, in this case the threat of being evicted from their residential homes".

Privatisaition of residential

Some progress made on pay homes stepped up: warning issues for Education staff

NIPSA acknowledged the measure of progress made in talks with the Education Minister late in September in respect of a number of pay related issues. Assistant Secretary, Paddy Mackel said: “At the meeting on Monday Trade Union Side made it clear to the Minister that the on-going delays regarding payment of increments to staff was totally unacceptable and our members could no longer be expected to wait indefinitely for what they were contractually entitled to. In addition TUS also highlighted the plight of members in Voluntary Grammar and Integrated Schools who had still to receive payment of the £250 to eligible staff for 2010/11 and 2011/12.

“It is to be welcomed that the Minister acknowledged the valuable contribution our members make in the Education sector and we acknowledge the steps he has put in place to resolve the problems, including establishing measures to guarantee that there will be no repeat of this situation in future years. “However despite a commitment from the Minister that payments will be made without further unnecessary delay, NIPSA remains extremely disappointed that a timescale for payment has not been provided to our members. The views of members will now be sought to help determine what further response will be made”


NIPSA resists moves to downgrade worker protections

Page 12 NIPSA Reports

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NEWS

ATTACKS on NIPSA members are not confined by employers’ moves to cut jobs and undermine terms and conditions of employment. The Northern Ireland Assembly can also take decisions that can undermine workers’ rights. NIPSA, through the Northern Ireland Committee of ICTU, is challenging potential plans by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) that erode the right of workers to claim unfair dismissal. In Great Britain, legislative changes brought in a year ago mean that workers there have to have two years continuous service before they can claim unfair dismissal to the employment tribunals.

Also the period required by an employer to consult with unions over redundancies has been cut. This makes it easier for employers across the water to make workers redundant. These are devolved matters in Northern Ireland and the trade union movement is currently resisting the introduction of these detrimental changes to the rights of workers and trade unions here. There is also an attempt by DEL to dilute the provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employees) Regulations (TUPE). These regulations provide some protection for employees, including those in the public sector,

where a privatisation of function takes place. DEL has conducted a consultation with the aim of removing what it terms “gold plating “ from the TUPE regulations. A NIPSA source said: “This is an attack on the protections available to workers and is being resisted by NIPSA, working through the broader trade union movement in Northern Ireland. “The dilution of the TUPE regulations will also make it easier for public sector work to be outsourced to the private and voluntary sectors and our interventions on this issue will make it more difficult for work and jobs to be privatised.”

NIPSA has issued an alert to members of the latest scam from financial charlatans sometimes referred to as “Pensions Liberation”. This involves the early release of pension savings from an occupational pension scheme. Members will be aware of the media/press advertisements to release the equity value in homes, these deals represent very poor financial returns for the loss of equity. The latest scam from financial charlatans refers to ‘early release’ of pension funds, sometimes referred to as ‘pension liberation’.

before you reach age 55 and you can’t take a loan from your pension savings. Even if you’ve reached 55 there are still rules as to how you can take your pension pot without being liable to a tax charge. If you break these rules you’ll be charged 55 per cent tax. And if you don’t tell HMRC about it in good time, you may have to pay penalties on top.

formation in response to a text or cold call. They should always make sure that they know who they are dealing with. These charlatan finance companies are largely targeting public servants, via various means they will have determined that the person is a public servant and therefore in all likelihood a member of a public service pension scheme. NILGOSC has recently seen a 50% increase in pension transfer requests, where pension scheme members appear to have been promised early release of their pension benefits if they transfer them out of the Local Government Pension Scheme. This is known as pension liberation fraud and normally involves the transfer of a member’s pension fund into risky investment funds, frequently based overseas.

IT’S A Alert over pension liberation scheme SCAM! When can pension liberation become fraud?

Pension liberation can be illegal where members are misled about key consequences of entering into one of these arrangements. This could be because they’re not informed of the tax consequences, fees Pension liberation also known as ‘pension loans’ and ‘pension scams’, is a transfer of a scheme mem- involved or how the remainder of their pension savings are invested. ber’s pension savings to an arrangement that will allow them to access their funds before the age 55. Pension liberation can result in tax charges and In rare cases – such as terminal illness – it is possi- penalties of more than half the value of a member’s pension savings, and those being targeted are usuble to access funds before age 55 from a current pension scheme. For the majority, promises of early ally not being told about these potential tax implications. cash will be bogus and are likely to result in serious tax bills. How are individuals targeted? All pension schemes have rules about when and how you can take your pension benefits – this is to An increasing number of companies are targeting keep your money safe for your retirement. savers claiming that they can help them take their Because pension savings get tax relief to encourage people to save for their retirement there are also pension cash early. Individuals may be targeted through websites, mass texting or through cold calls. tax rules about when you can take money from your pension pot. Normally you can’t access your pension Individuals should be very wary about giving out in-

What is pension liberation?

What’s the catch?

Converting a pension into cash might sound very attractive to people who urgently need money. However, if something sounds too good to be true, it invariably is. n A member may be poorer in retirement. n A member may be hit by unexpectedly high fees. n A member may be misled as to the consequences of the transfer. n A member may be hit with significant charges by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).


NIPSA Reports: Special Edition