Sunday, January 17, 2010

Overcoming the public/private divide over pensions?

It is opportune that I am having to catch up with some delayed blogging over the last few days, as the Liberal Democrats scaremongering over local government pensions on Friday only served to add relevance to a decision taken at our UNISON Branch AGM the day before.

The most important things we need to do to prepare for the coming attack upon the Local Government Pension Scheme are;
  • To recruit more members to increase our density;
  • To build unity with the other trade unions at every level;
  • To mobilise pressure on all candidates in the forthcoming elections to pledge to protect our pensions;
  • To prepare our members (and our membership records!) for the likely necessity of strike action.
However, we also need to overcome the division between public and private sector workers (otherwise we will forever be on a back foot defending fair pensions for a minority of the workforce).

One way to contribute to overcoming this divide would be to lobby for an extension of "admitted body status" to open up the Local Government Pension Scheme to workers in the private sector generally.

Scheme members who are privatised can remain in the Scheme if their employers pay their share of the contributions - so why not open this up? Allowing wider scheme membership would not jeopardise the funds as long as employer and employee contributions were paid - and though few private employers might be prepared to make the payments it would be open to their workforce to pressure them to do so.

This idea is not a short term solution to anything at all, but the Lambeth Branch Annual General Meeting has instructed us to prepare and submit a Conference motion to try to get some discussion going about how we overcome the public/private pensions divide.

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