Monday, 14 December 2015

All in a days work....Unions, and the massive good that we do

I was horrified after a retired Unite member rang me.   He had had a frightening letter from a company (not his former employer) that has the job of managing his pension scheme.....

Clearly....they have not been managing it very well.

The letter spelt out that due to an admin error, they had been overpaying him for years...to the tune of nearly fifteen grand!

Worse, not only would our members pensions be reduced immediately to the correct level, but they required full repayment of the £15,000 within six weeks.  How reasonable!

Luckily, the retired worker was still a union member.   Few people realise that work related problems can find you in retirement.....

My head span as I thought it through. Was this the only case in the company?  What was the legal situation? Could we get him out of this?

Luckily, the member had worked at a highly unionised workplace.  I rang the senior Unite rep at the site and he put the word out.  Several quiet words with the right people later.....and it turns out that there were six similar cases of retired workers getting these letters....all from the same workplace.

Unfortunately, one poor guy had immediately paid up in full when he received his demand for about £9000.

None of the others "owed" as much as £15,000, but all had received demands for considerable payments into the thousands.

Using the good relationship we have with the employer (not the third party running the scheme) I am very pleased that all £15,000 has now been written off.   This is an enormous relief to the elderly gentleman concerned.   In total, overpayments of around £40,000 have been written off for the five retired members concerned.

I decided to blog about this to highlight a practical problem Unions have.   In this everyday example of a Union securing a very positive outcome, why rub the employers nose in it?   It's usually unwise to "go public" with a win....unless the win was won via court or industrial action.  

Most Union wins come through positive, private talks with the employer....    Of course, there is nothing wrong with that....but it comes at a price.

In other words, the enormous scale of everyday union successes and good news stories remain under the hood.... hidden.    It's not properly measured, and it probably can't be.

However Unions could and should do more (just my view...) to promote the massive good we do....but that's easier to say than do. In our branches and through our democratic structures, we need to start talking about how we can do it.