Saturday, October 21, 2006

Where are we at with local government pensions?

I hope that some of these personal views about the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) dispute will be published this week in Labour Left Briefing.

Following the October 2005 exclusion of a million and more local government workers from the deal to protect the pensions of current public service workers, we took the largest strike for 80 years on 28 March this year. This unprecedented pan-union strike action showed that, even isolated from other public service workers, members of the local government pension scheme are a large group with the ability to take effective strike action.

Shortly after the strike, and in the run up to the May local elections, the unions agreed to defer further strike action in return for a promise of negotiations. At UNISON’s local government Conference in June delegates were narrowly persuaded not to reverse this decision on the strength of the union having sought a judicial review of the Government’s alleged reliance on age discrimination regulations to justify their proposed reductions in our pension rights.

Now that the judicial review has failed ignominiously and the promised negotiations have come to nothing we are back where we should have been in April, needing to step back up the pressure on the Government and the employers. Many activists are justifiably critical of the tactics employed by the small group in charge of the dispute hitherto, but these criticisms are far less important than the need to mobilise our members for future action.

Activists are pressing for a special local government Conference to consider how to take the dispute forward. This is a sensible demand. It will certainly be essential that there is a Conference before any ballot of members on a new pension scheme, so that any recommendation in a ballot is decided democratically by rank and file activists.

However, it seems most likely that the Government will table draft Regulations in November which will be so unsatisfactory that there will be no controversy within UNISON about the need for a further industrial action ballot. Indeed strike action looks likely early in the New Year.

We need to maximise the political impact of further industrial action and it is therefore good news that UNISON is already encouraging members to engage in further letter-writing and to support a lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 22 November.

We should also make effective use of our Labour Link by not only withdrawing support from leadership candidates who will not back our fight for our pensions, but by actively supporting John McDonnell, the leadership candidate with a track record of support for UNISON members and our issues.

More than anything else however, we need to be preparing for serious and sustained strike action to defend our pensions.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"This unprecedented pan-union strike action showed that, even isolated from other public service workers, members of the local government pension scheme are a large group with the ability to take effective strike action."

In addition to telling us what we already know, can you enlighten us on where the other LGPS unions, in particular the GMB & TGWU, stand on a return to industrial action?

Anonymous said...

The experience of the London Weighting Dispute - widely recognised as an outright failure - would suggest that go-it-alone tactics by UNISON would be badly advised.

If the new look LGPS regulations turn out to be as bad as expected, persuading the other LGPS unions to take action alongside UNISON will be an essential pre-condition of successful action.

Those who inhabit a UNISON bubble would do well to recognise this reality.