Monday, July 18, 2011

What was the point of that then?

Now we move into "scheme-specific" negotiations on our pensions (

So why did we bother to have the talks with Francis Maude and Danny Alexander? What has been achieved?


Nothing appears to have been ruled out. Maybe "voices off" have indeed promised no contribution increases in the LGPS (a tribute to the influence of the employers rather more than to the organisations of the employees perhaps?) but it appears that "world class" negotiators have emerged from the Cabinet Office with a no score draw at the bottom of League Two.

The point of the Cabinet Office talks (if I can explain it for the really dense pupils of struggle like novice B Barber) was to use the power of unity to have some leverage. If you never meant to do that then you really shouldn't've wasted all our time. You may have asked the unions who struck on 30 June what their "exit strategy" was - but have you ever had any sort of strategy at all?

The workers who struck on 30 June - and the many others fighting round the country - are truly lions (and they are led by lions) - but our movement as a whole does appear right now to be led by donkeys (or possibly barbers)(meaning no offence to those engaged in the honest toil of cutting hair!).

If I went to my Branch Committee and said "right, I've spoken to the Director of HR, the Leader and the Chief Executive and agreed that nothing is ruled out, now off you trot [pun intended] and negotiate your redundancies department by department" they would rightly ask what I was for.

Where cuts and job losses are hitting a whole Council workforce (for example) it must be right at least to try to mobilise a response across the whole workforce, rather than deciding at the outset to leave each section to fight alone. The least you do in these circumstances is ensure that you have a corporate trade dispute so that the door is open to workforce-wide action.

Where an attack on pensions hits the whole public sector (and provides the only lawful opportunity for a generalised response to any of a whole series of attacks) then the least that should be done is that disputes should be organised and co-ordinated around unifying demands.

That means that the Cabinet Office talks should have been used to make some general demands (around, say, contribution increases, retirement ages, uprating and private sector membership). These demands, if unmet, should have led to trade disputes with the relevant Secretaries of State, and to co-ordinated action in the early autumn.

A leadership of our movement which lived daily with the attacks of the Tory Government would have pursued such an approach. It remains the right approach, reflecting UNISON policy and the interests of our members, and we should pursue it still.

Those who support the move to "scheme specific" negotiations on the basis that no concessions have been won (or perhaps even been asked for) support neither UNISON policy nor UNISON members.

The Service Group Liaison Committee (SLGC) meets tomorrow. It has no place in UNISON's Rule Book - and was only ever mentioned in UNISON Conference Policy when our largest Service Group declared it unfit for purpose after the fiasco of the last pensions dispute.

If the SLGC wants to support the move to scheme-specific negotiations in order to break the unity of the trade unions with no assurances whatsoever then I hope each member of that august body will be prepared to undertake a speaking tour of branches to explain why the "protect our pensions" campaign was no more than hot air.

As a local government worker, I know who sold me short last time there was a pensions dispute. As a public servant I can see what is happening now.

I have no enemies within the Union, but if my friends make mistakes I shall let them know. If tomorrow's SLGC lives up to its potential it will call for trade disputes in all sectors now and unified action at an early date.

No socialist or trade unionist would settle for less. This is not a time for soundbites, but the hand of history is on their shoulders...

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At least one fact is wrong - SGLC does not meet tomorrow