Friday, December 08, 2006

LGPS Dispute update from NEC

The NEC received a tabled report from the Head of Local Government. Following the decision of the local government minister, Phil Woolas, to allow further time for negotiations, further talks between the unions and local government employers are expected to commence this week. There appear to be no grounds for optimism about the outcome of these talks.

It is now expected that the Regulations will be published at the end of next week, and meetings of Service Group Executives will take place on Monday 19 December and of the Industrial Action Committee on 20 December. Branches involved in the dispute should be preparing for a strike ballot commencing at the end of January with industrial action commencing in early March. It is very important to lobby MPs now and during the formal consultation period on the new Regulations, which will run for twelve weeks once the draft Regulations are published. The website is regularly updated.

There was some confusion about the status of the decision to call a Special Local Government Service Group Conference, though this was eventually resolved on the basis that the previous NEC meeting had agreed to delegate authority to approve the previous request of the Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) for such a Conference to the Service Group Liaison Committee and Finance and Resource Management Committee and that these bodies had approved this request.

The Head of Local Government confirmed that, at the time of the decision of the Service Group Liaison Committee to approve the request for a Special Conference it was believed that the requisition for a Conference initiated by the Kirklees branch had already attracted the support of branches representing more than 25% of the membership of the Service Group. However, as at that time the two month deadline for receipt of valid requisitions had not expired, and as the Service Group Liaison Committee (on behalf of the NEC) had approved the request of the SGE for a Conference before the expiry of the deadline this therefore took precedence over the requisitioned Conference.

It may or may not be worth spending time exploring this questionable logic. The Standing Orders Committee for Local Government Conference will meet on 12 December to consider a request from the SGE for a timetable of less than sixteen weeks leading up to the Special Conference and to determine the date for the Conference. Louise Couling took issue with those who were critical of the conduct of the dispute and claimed that it was being run by officials. Jon Rogers took a different view and pointed out that if our activists and branches were confident in the governance of the dispute there would not have been such a strong response to the call for a Special Conference.

The key issue on which we now need to focus is rebuilding the momentum of the dispute with a view to intensifying our political lobbying and preparing for strike action.

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