Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Debate on LGPS at the UNISON NEC

There was a lengthy debate at today’s meeting of the UNISON NEC around a thorough report from the Head of Local Government about the dispute over the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). There were thirteen speakers and the main controversy was over the request from the Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) for a special Service Group Conference. On the one hand a minority (myself included) argued strongly in support of the position of the Local Government SGE, whilst a majority supported the recommendation of the Presidential Team that the matter be referred to the Service Group Liaison Committee (SGLC). The SGLC is a small Committee of leading NEC members and representatives of the various Service Groups – since there is equal representation for each Service Group the larger service groups are under represented in proportion to membership.

I opposed the Presidential Team recommendation because I was – and am – critical of the tactics we have employed in this dispute. We suspended industrial action in April in return for negotiations which – according to the report we saw today – have not been undertaken in good faith by the employers. We decided not to recommence industrial action in June because we were urged to wait for a legal challenge which now appears – albeit with the great benefit of hindsight – to have been fundamentally misconceived. All of this flows from the decision of our Union to be party to a deal on public service pensions from which the LGPS was excluded. On balance I would rather trust a Conference of branch delegates to run this dispute and I welcome the call of the Local Government SGE for such a Conference.

Speakers from the police staffs service group and higher education both opposed NEC support for the position of the Local Government SGE. The key arguments for the majority position appeared to be that we could not allow one service group to determine policy in a dispute which crossed service group boundaries (although it was clear that this was not what the Local Government SGE were trying to do) and that a Conference would be a diversion from the dispute (!)

About ten of us voted against the Presidential Team recommendation, and a large number of members abstained, but a majority agreed to refer the question of a special Conference to the SGLC. Since the SGLC and its pensions subgroup have been responsible for the tactics thus far in the LGPS dispute I was not persuaded that this was a wise course of action, and I remain unconvinced. In London we will have to think on this at Friday’s meeting of the Regional Local Government Committee.

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