Government plans to allow colleges to opt out of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) would be harmful to staff and the scheme itself, a union has said.
While current regulations require further education colleges, sixth-form colleges and post-1992 universities to offer membership of the LGPS to all support staff, the government is now consulting on plans to change those regulations and give those employers a choice on pensions, arguing that they are no longer considered part of the public sector.
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Unison, which represents around 30,000 non-teaching FE staff across the UK, says this is an “unwarranted and grievous attack on the pension rights of our members”.
“Not providing a decent pension scheme for new staff could lead to a two-tier workforce, with colleagues doing the same job being provided with different pensions provision,” said national secretary Jon Richards.
“Those not in the LGPS would likely end up with far inferior pension provision leading to more public service workers retiring into poverty. The proposals risk penalising the lowest paid, mainly female, workforce and could lead to potential discrimination and equal pay issues.”
Because the proposals only apply to England, Unison, which represents support staff at colleges across the UK, said the changes would also lead to two-tier pension provision for college and university staff between England and the devolved nations – with Wales and Northern Ireland covered by LGPS and Scotland having its own separate Scottish LGPS.
Mr Richards also warned that the proposals “could damage cash flow for a number of LGPS funds, affecting workers in local government and services far beyond further and higher education”. University and college staff in those two sectors account for 3 per cent of current scheme members.
An emergency motion on this issue has been submitted to the union’s national executive council and will be debated at this month’s national delegate conference.