UNISON wins pensions access at South Lakes Housing Association

On 5 March 2012, South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) transferred ownership of their housing stock to South Lakes Housing (SLH), a newly formed Housing Association.   Prior to that date, the homes had been managed by South Lakes Housing as an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) of the Council.

Despite the drawbacks of a significant number of homes for social rent being removed from public ownership,  UNISON members at SLH were broadly in agreement of the transfer, as it enabled long  term job security and an increase in staff numbers. Also, there was to be no contracting out of our in- house maintenance team.

Both UNISON and GMB worked with management to draw up a Staff Pledge, which secured terms and conditions of employment for staff in post at the time of transfer.  At the time of transfer, our Administering Authority (Cumbria County Council) granted us Admitted Body Status to the LGPS. What the pledge was unable to deliver was access to the Scheme for members of staff who commenced employment after 5 March 2012.

Through staff consultation and negotiating, the principle of allowing new starters to join the LGPS was established.  We were fortunate that our employers did not partake in the pensions  ‘ race to the bottom’, and recognised  that providing  an attractive remuneration package was key to securing long term sustainable jobs, and that translated into a stable workforce to administer and improve a public resource.  The case was put to Cumbria County Council, and following further negotiations including a financial guarantee from SLH/SLDC, was accepted.  Staff appointed after 5 March 2012 are now able to join the LGPS, and this will also be offered under auto enrolment.

Since transfer, we have recruited staff to fill 4 new posts, with a further 3 yet to be appointed.  We have continued to take on and train apprentices, both in manual and clerical areas of our business, and our in house repairs and maintenance team are preparing to bid for additional work.

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