Friday, June 15, 2007

UNISON claims pensions compromise as victory

The official position is as follows;

“Today, Phil Woolas has made a statement to the House of Commons announcing a twelve week statutory consultation on proposals to amend the October 2006 LGPS Regulations to provide full rather than tapered protection to 2020. He follows this by stating that the cost of extending the protection will have to be offset by savings in the scheme. UNISON has long maintained that the extended protection is affordable. We will continue our campaign through the statutory consultation to address this point.

This announcement is a major breakthrough and a long held objective of both UNISON’s and the wider LGPS Trade Union Side, the constant lobbying and pressure has paid off.

UNISON’s Consultation Ballot Begins
The Service Group Liaison Committee / Strike Committee meeting held on14 June 2007 agreed to initiate a consultation ballot on the new LGPS immediately. In light of the Woolas statement the consultation will be on the basis of recommending the package to members.

The ballot covers nearly a million UNISON members, and will be sent to individual’s home addresses. Ballot materials are being prepared and will be issued to members in early July direct with a closing date for the ballot being 23 July 2007.

We want to ensure a maximum turn out in the ballot and branches will need to alert members that the ballot is coming. We are preparing posters for branches to use during the ballot period.

Branches must use this opportunity to recruit non members and let them know the success of our union campaign and how we achieved the new LGPS package, remind them to join the union and be part of something that improves their working and retired lives!”

Another view would be that we went on strike against reductions in pension benefits and not simply to ensure that only some of us would experience reductions in our pension benefits.

Other public service pension schemes agreed changes on the basis of protecting the rights of existing scheme members. UNISON didn’t ask the other Unions to hold off on signing up to the offer from Alan Johnson in October 2005 to see if it could be extended to local government so we can’t blame anyone but ourselves for the fact that local government workers got a worse deal.

As I have said on this blog with boring regularity, I get that we don’t always win industrial disputes in the sense of getting everything we want. That’s fair enough. You do your best and you take the best you can get. That is the every day life of a trade union activist.

I hope I have never, at branch level, tried to dress up a compromise as an unalloyed victory, yet I am afraid that that is exactly what UNISON officials now appear to be doing.

We didn’t lose the pensions dispute. We won real concessions through taking strike action. Had we taken more strike action we would have won more concessions.

Neither however did we win. I don’t think it is an acceptable or sensible basis to try to build the Union by pretending that compromises are victories. Our members and potential members are not stupid and will not appreciate a less than honest approach.

I shall vote to reject this proposal because I agree with what our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said in March last year;

"Strike action is the only option left to local government workers to demonstrate the burning resentment and anger they feel over the government and employers taking away their pension rights – when those same rights have been given to every other public-sector pension scheme. Why should they put up with this discrimination?”

How can we claim now as a victory a settlement which falls so far short of what we fought for last year?

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