Friday, July 15, 2011

Trade Union Unity or a pensions farce?

I hope that the tragedy of 15 April 1921 (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(1921)) isn't set to be repeated as farce at the TUC Public Service Liaison Group on 18 July, ninety years later.

In 1921 the pledges of mutual support between trade unions were found wanting. In 2011 the Government may be set to propose that negotiations on the future of public service pensions move on to "scheme-specific" negotiations on the basis that, as far as the recommendations of Lord Hutton are concerned, "nothing is ruled out."

If the TUC support this move they will be acknowledging a failure to use the potential strength of our unity to secure concessions - and will be opening the door to "divide and rule" tactics from the Government. This wouldn't simply - as in 1921 - be a betrayal of one (or more) union(s) by the leaders of other unions. It would amount to the leaders of those unions who support Brendan Barber in bending the knee to Danny Alexander letting down their own members very seriously indeed.

If I may be parochial for a moment, as a member of the Local Government Pension Scheme - I would clearly be relieved if lobbying from the local authority employers meant that the Government withdrew proposed increases in contributions in the LGPS.

It may be that hints of such a move are amongst the encouragement being given to the largest unions to break ranks with the teachers and civil servants in particular and rush now into "scheme-specific" talks.

However, if talks about the LGPS commence now we will be swallowing the 15% reduction in our pensions imposed on 1 April when the basis of uprating was changed - and (more importantly) we will be squandering the opportunity to use the combined strength of the entire public sector to resist Hutton's catastrophic plan to exclude private sector workers from public sector pensions, which sits alongside the Government's desire to end pension protection on transfer.

If outsourcing companies (such as Capita) know that they can transfer local government employees without having to preserve the value of their pensions then they will be able to offer cheaper bids to Councils desperate to save money.

This will tend to accelerate privatisation - and will ensure that the many thousands of workers whose jobs face privatisation will lose completely whatever we think we have gained for LGPS members in "scheme-specific" negotiations.

If we miss the chance to fight nationally to defend our pensions (and therey resist privatisation) we will be abandoning our members and branches to a contract-by-contract fight against privatisation from employers who will then know that the UK's largest trade union funked the only chance it will get in this Parliament to defeat the most reactionary Government in our history.

I so hope I am worrying needlessly.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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