Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pensions dispute latest - not good news

Today’s meeting of the UNISON Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) decided not to recommend any further fight with the Government over the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

Although we have not secured the same protection for LGPS members as that offered to other public servants under the Public Service Forum deal in October 2005 the SGE are recommending that – once current negotiations are concluded – there should be a consultative ballot offering members the choice of accepting the current package or holding a ballot for serious and sustained strike action.

This seemingly democratic position is designed to deliver our acquiescence in the unacceptable Government proposals – since the SGE has no plans to campaign against the proposals and in favour of strike action. In general if you ask people “cold” whether they want to strike they won’t – and without a serious campaign to explain the shortcomings of the current proposals we will be inviting acceptance of a package which simply does not deliver what we set out to achieve.

The less convincing of the two arguments for the SGE position is that the current package is a “good deal”. This argument forgets that we have not achieved the specific demands for which our members took strike action in unprecedented numbers on 28 March 2006.

The more plausible argument for accepting that we must abandon the objective for which we struck last March is that the mood for action amongst our members is not there. This is plausible however only if we choose to ignore the possibility of a successful campaign to win our members to the need for further action.

I shall be supporting calls for a strike ballot at next Tuesday’s Special Conference and hope that rank and file activists will also be able to push onto the agenda a call for a campaign to reject the Government proposals in any consultative ballot. As a branch delegate I will be reflecting the unanimous views of 130 members at our branch Annual General Meeting who supported a strike ballot.

It is not fair that local government workers (and other members of our pension scheme) should be short-changed in comparison with other public servants and I fail to see why we should accept (let alone celebrate) this injustice!

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