The NUT Executive recognise that the combined impact of the proposals of the Hutton Commission' the decision to switch the indexation of pension benefits from RPI to CPI and the inclusion in the Comprehensive Spending Review of an assumption that public sector workers will pay 3% more in pension contributions amount to "a much bigger threat to our pensions than the proposals we fought in 2005" - as a member of the Local Government Pension Scheme I remember our fight going on into strike action in 2006 and a Special Service Group Conference in 2007 - but the point being made by the NUT is essentially sound.
What they sensibly now propose to do is to produce and distribute campaign materials for use with members and the public, to plan meetings, rallies and lobbying activities - and to ballot for strike action in the Spring Term.
Their Executive has also instructed their General Secretary to approach other unions with a view to coordinated action.
How should UNISON respond to such an approach? We already know the views of our General Secretary!
At UNISON Conference five months ago, Dave Prentis touched on pensions in his keynote speech (http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B5115.pdf). Dave said;
" if we find ourselves faced with a concerted attack on our pensions, and if Nick Clegg, who claimed expenses for a biscuit tin, comes for our pensions, as he boasted only yesterday, then we will ballot for national industrial action."
He rightly continued;
"If this government picks a fight with us, then we will be ready. And if this government picks a fight we will be fierce defenders of our members, and the services they deliver, the next four years will test us all. Test our resolve. Test our nerve. But we will pass the test. The world has changed - new worries, new fears. And our members look to us to lead. This is no time to hang our heads. It is time to stand tall. Proud, confident, bold. We know what we stand for. We know who we are. The union who will stand in the way. The union who will fight 'til the end. This is the time to lift our hearts and raise our flag. A brand new chapter. Strong, determined, united."
UNISON is a member-led union and our General Secretary cannot decide when or why we take strike action - but his views will rightly carry weight with decision makers.
There is a compelling case for coordinated national action to defend our pensions.
This is an issue on which our members can be mobilised - as we cannot (yet) mobilise them against the pay freeze.
This is an issue about which unifying national trade disputes can be declared - as they cannot against cuts and redundancies implemented locally by particular employers.
This is an issue which hits all our members - not just those whose jobs may currently be at risk.
This is an issue on which we can win - and force back the ConDems in a significant national dispute.
Such a victory would strengthen our hand in each local dispute about cuts. It would encourage all trade unionists and working people to believe that this Government can be forced back. It would be a victory for all those millions under attack by the Government of millionaires.
For those wishing to pursue this matter in UNISON's Greater London Region I am tempted to point out that this might be a legitimate topic for an Emergency Motion to our December Regional Council (but I wouldn't want to incur the wrath of a fellow blogger who knows the need for a sedate timetable in the struggle - http://grayee.blogspot.com/2010/11/march-in-march-not-before.html).
On second thoughts, I suggest UNISON activists raise this question in every appropriate forum!
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