Yesterday (Monday 24 June) saw the launch of a consultative ballot for UNISON members working in Northumbria Health Facilities Management Ltd (NHFML) who are a wholly owned subsidiary company of Northumbria Healthcare NHS foundation trust. The trust have been consulting with staff for the past 12 months on a change in pension provider to apply the NHS pension scheme to become the sole pension provider for staff. Currently staff who transferred into NHFML from the trust had their NHS pension automatically protected, however for staff who were appointed directly to NHFML, due to NHS pension restrictions they were unable to join the NHS pension scheme and were instead, enrolled into the NEST scheme. The NEST pension scheme is capped at less than half the contribution of the NHS scheme.
When NHFML was established as a privately owned company they were unable to offer an NHS pension to new staff as the scheme would not allow. Following lobbying at a national level, largely by UNISON the NHS pension has now agreed to accept applications from Wholly Owned NHS Subsidiary Companies, of which NHFML is one. NHFML are keen to be recognised as a good employer, currently being one of the only Wholly Owned Subsidiary companies to have awarded the full NHS 3 year pay deal and mirror agenda for change terms and condition in their totality. By providing an NHS pension to their staff NHFML will be leading the way in recognising the value their staff bring to the NHS.
ALL UNISON members in NHFML are taking part in a consultation balloted which asks if they want their pension provider to be NHS pensions, this is because it is contractual change, so in the future it could even affect existing members of the scheme who may at some point opt out.
We are delighted that NHFML are keen to ensure they have one pension provider providing good quality benefits to their staff despite the significant increase in costs to them and whilst there will also be some increase for some members, this will provide higher long term retirement benefits.
We are now encouraging ALL UNISON members in NHFML to make sure they return their ballot paper before the close of the ballot which runs until noon on 12 July. It is important that EVERYONE has their say!