Our LGPS divestment campaign continues!

UNISON activists gather in Winchester to protest against continued pension investment in fossil fuels

UNISON South East members – led by the Hampshire County Branch – are continuing their campaign to persuade the Hampshire Local Government Pension Scheme to divest from fossil fuels. UNISON members were joined by Extinction Rebellion Winchester, WINACC, Dirty Money, UCU, and other local groups as the pensions board held a public meeting at the county council offices. The scheme currently invests an estimated £136,056,249 in environmentally destructive industries – putting it in the country’s top quartile of fossil fuel investments.

Among the protestors was Southampton City councillor David Shields, who called on the scheme to publish a strategy and timetable outlining how it will manage its investments in a more sustainable way. The Labour councillor for Freemantle said:

‘Hampshire County Council declared a climate emergency two years ago, but the actions of the pension board completely disregard that. If the council is really serious about tackling climate change they should be working with the scheme to divest from fossil fuels immediately – not contributing to environmental disaster.’

Christopher O’Neill, part of Hampshire County UNISON’s Retired Member’s section, said he was shocked at the amount of money being invested in this way. He was also angry at the apparent lack of democracy within the scheme, saying:

The pension scheme does not allow any member not living in Hampshire to make representations to the board. So if you have paid into the scheme for decades, but decided to retire elsewhere you are effectively disenfranchised, which is absurd. Many people who currently work for the council may also live in a neighbouring county, and it is completely unfair that they are denied a say in how their money is being invested!’ 

The demonstrators were grateful to Test Valley Councillor David Drew, who took the time to come out into the cold and listen to their concerns. UNISON Regional Organiser Neil Duncan-Jordan outlined the campaign objectives to him, and hopes to meet with the councillor again to discuss these in further details. The campaign is calling on the fund to:

  • Stop investing in environmentally destructive industries
  • Commit to managing its investments in line with the Paris target of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5c
  • Publish a strategy and a timetable outlining how it will achieve this
  • Address its democratic deficit and allow all members a say – no matter where they live
  • Appoint a permanent trade union representative to the pensions board

The demonstration follows an earlier protest held back in October, and UNISON Area Organiser Patrick Young says the campaign will continue throughout 2022:

‘UNISON has thousands of members across hundreds of employers that pay into this scheme, and their views on this matter deserve to be heard. The pensions board should follow the example of other regional funds, such as those in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, that have already made significant pledges to divest. Over the next few months of the campaign we will be encouraging employers to put pressure on the fund to act responsibly and start putting the planet first.’

If you are a part of the Hampshire Local Government Pension Scheme and would like to learn more about this campaign, then please email Patrick at P.Young@unison.co.uk