Thursday, July 08, 2010

Osborne has cut our pensions - shall we complain or campaign?

Yesterday - a mere fortnight after the ConDem Government slashed the future value of all public service pensions (http://jonrogers1963.blogspot.com/2010/06/unisons-retired-members-under-attack.html) - the TUC got round to condemning this (http://www.tuc.org.uk/publicsector/tuc-18170-f0.cfm).

A fellow blogger said rather more, a full week earlier (http://unionfutures.blogspot.com/2010/06/defend-public-service-pensions-now.html) and Oxfordshire Health Unison deserve credit for promptly realising the seriousness of this issue (http://www.unisonoxonhealth.org.uk/prosecute.htm).

Whilst it would have been good to see this sooner, the TUC did however do us the service of giving some figures for the amount by which public service pensioners will be worse off as a result of Osborne's statistical sleight of hand in shifting from the RPI (Retail Prices Index) to the CPI (Consumer Prices Index) as the basis for future uprating of pensions in payment.

The TUC has calculated that an eighty year old pensioner on the average public sector pension of £5,500 who has been retired for twenty years would now have a pension of £4,845 a year - 12 per cent or £655 less - if CPI uprating had been in force since their retirement. A public service pensioner who has been retired for ten years would now have a pension 8.4 per cent lower.

At UNISON Conference in Bournemouth Dave Prentis pledged support for national strike action against an attack on our pensions. I imagine he was expecting such an attack emerging several months into the life of the Coalition Government , rather than several weeks.

But now it's here. These are real cuts in our pensions - the most blatant attack imaginable and no different to a cut in pay.

We may not be ready for a national strike ballot next week or next month, but we need to be declaring disputes, making preparations and mobilising members.

Yesterday's meeting of the Development and Organisation Committee of the UNISON NEC considered a thoughtful report from our Deputy General Secretary (http://www.unison.org.uk/about/board_view.asp?did=2239).

The report dealt (as you might expect) with organisational matters but - in setting the all-important context for its recommendations - it's author rightly concluded that we shall be forced into industrial action.

We will not always be able freely to choose the terrain upon which we have to fight the ConDem Coalition, but to the extent that we can influence the timing and the immediate issues we need to aim for a dispute most likely to produce the widest practicable united action at the earliest practicable date (the passage of time will not strengthen our hand).

The RPI/CPI issue presents us with a cut in pensions across the public sector as a whole - how should we use this?

One option is illustrated by the timing and content of yesterday's TUC press release (which does not even hint at the possibility of strike action).

The TUC used the fact of the Coalition attack upon the value of public service pensions - treated as a fait accompli - to rebut yesterday's attack upon our pensions by stooges of the Institute of Directors (the provisional wing of the CBI...) UNISON's more robust rebuttal was more effective (http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=1917).

We shouldn't swallow this first Coalition attack upon our pensions just so we can use its effects to show that our pensions, having become less generous, are more "affordable." What is "affordable" is always a political and never an economic choice.

The alternative approach is that set out by Dave Prentis in his speech as General Secretary to UNISON National Delegate Conference - national strike action to defend public service pensions.

We have a lot of work to do to persuade and mobilise our members.

Will we get on with it?
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The RPI/CPI issue
what's the cpi then?? Explain?