One of Scotland’s largest unions is calling for a radical overhaul of council pension funds over links to Donald Trump’s migrant detention camps.
UNISON has proposed a merger of pension pots and the creation of a new ethical investment unit.
The call comes after it was revealed that £138 million of Scottish workers’ pension cash was being used to bankroll the US President’s immigration detention centres.
Strathclyde Pension Fund, which manages pension funds for 230,000 Scottish public service workers, has £52m invested. Lothian Pension Fund, with more than 65,000 members, has investments worth £28m, while North East Scotland Pension Fund has investments worth £58m.
The revelations came shortly after it emerged that migrant children were separated from their parents and detained in border camps after trying to enter the United States. Footage of distressed children in cages attracted global condemnation.
UNISON was among several organisations expressing outrage and is calling for an overhaul of the structure of pension funds.
The Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme Advisory Board is consulting employers and trade unions on whether changes should be made to the structure of funds.
There are currently 11 different funds. UNISON Scotland says they should be merged into one fund with a central Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) unit. The ESG unit would develop ethical investment in “accordance with the values” of union members.
“As part of our interim response to the structure review we are arguing for a central ESG unit which would do an ethical assessment on all investments to ensure pension boards and committees are aware of the links in investments like this,” said Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s head of policy and public affairs.
“Without such an approach this type of investment (links to Trump’s migrant camps) will continue to go under the radar.”
Green MSP Ross Greer said: “It’s bang out of order that Scottish pension funds are invested in climate-wrecking industries, the arms trade and even the brutal detention and deportation system of Trump’s America. I’m grateful to UNISON, who continue to take a leading role in the campaign to end unethical pension investments.
“There should be no excuse for the continued funding of corporations causing so much harm and suffering, when the investment could instead be in the jobs-rich industries of the future, which are in any case, a far safer place to put the pensions of hundreds of thousands of Scots.”
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A spokesman for Strathclyde Pension Fund said: “Committee will consider a response to the consultation in the near future, however Strathclyde already has significant benefits of scale, is well resourced and has its own responsible investment policy and adviser.
“There is nothing to stop individual funds working together on environmental, social or governance issues, which could include a shared ESG unit – and that centralised approach already exists within the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which Strathclyde participates in.”
A North East Scotland Pension Fund spokeswoman said: “The North East Scotland Pension Fund has had for some time dedicated resources to address Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) issues and is currently assessing options to measure all the Fund’s investments from an ESG prospective.
“The pension committee is fully aware of the issues, and ESG is reported and discussed on a quarterly basis.”
Lothian Pension Fund did not respond to our request for a comment.
A version of this story was published by The Sunday Post on 2 September 2018.