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Unison Conference 2024 Unison slams government's political interference in pensions

UNISON voted today to defend public-sector pensions from “political meddling” and fight for the future of defined-benefit rather than defined-contribution schemes.

Camden Unison’s Liz Wheatley slammed the Tory bid to stop pension funds pursuing ethical investment policies if these conflict with government policy, a crackdown aimed at the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement of solidarity with Palestine.

“It’s our money,” she said of pension funds, “both the money we pay in directly and the deferred wages our employers pay, but a proper pension shouldn’t come at any cost. We shouldn’t have pensions invested in death, destruction and occupation.”

The Local Government Pension Scheme, one of the biggest in the country, has money invested in arms firms like BAE and Lockheed Martin, fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and “Barclays, the bank of apartheid” (a reference to its investments in Israel), she said.

Th conference agreed to campaign for pension funds to be free to invest “in a way that reflects both the ethical views and material interests of scheme members.”

A linked motion moved by Haringey’s Maggie Griffin warned that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is pushing pension funds to raise investments in private equity and to divert funds to plug funding gaps in “levelling-up” projects, noting the importance of maintaining funds’ duty to prioritise the interests of their members so that local government workers aren’t short-changed in retirement.

Delegates discussed attacks on the Local Government Pension Scheme, both through councils seeking to save money by reducing contributions to schemes temporarily in surplus and through increasing ministerial interference in how pension funds are invested.

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