Saturday, January 07, 2012

Unity against miserablism

I was pleased to be well enough to make it to today's well-attended Conference called, in a timely and appropriate manner by PCS Left Unity( for trade union activists to consider recent developments in the public sector pensions dispute.
I ask those reading this who also attended to excuse the somewhat cantankerous nature of my contribution on the basis that I am still recuperating! (Mind you, I stand by my contention that union activists who don't understand the interaction of accrual rates and revaluation rates in a CARE pension, or what the triennial actuarial valuation of the LGPS is, have some studying to do.)(It's more important than reading Trotsky comrades :p)
Although the Conference saw excellent contributions (from the platform and the floor) from Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell, Kevin Courtenay, Gill George and a host of others, and although Janice Godrich deserved a medal for chairing it, the single comment which lodged in my (still perhaps slightly feverish) brain was from the UCU comrade who described our opponents within the movement, those who think that we have gone as far as we can go and should settle for whatever tiny concession we can achieve, as "miserablists."
This is such a wonderful description of those now prepared to write off the largest strike for a generation as a failure in order to try to justify abandoning its objectives!
I am left far from miserable by today's event. As ever, my batteries are recharged somewhat by networking with so many comrades whose commitment to our movement is driven by a vision of a better future for all - but much more important (for a borderline miserablist like myself) I am encouraged by the practical usefuleness of the lunchtime UNISON caucus, and of the valuable information shared by comrades from other trade unions.
It is crystal clear that the pensions dispute is not over. The choice we all now face is which side to take in this dispute. Are we with Cameron or the working class?
Having seen what the leadership of my trade union can do to lead a fight for our members, I hope that UNISON will assume its proper place as the leadership of a battle which is far from over.
As our General Secretary repeatedly made clear to our NEC - and stated to our Conference (, this will be a long and hard fight in which victory cannot be guaranteed - "one day will not be enough").
I will not join, and do not agree with, those who condemn our leaders and our negotiators for putting to our elected lay Committees a position described, for the Government, as their "final offer". To do this cannot properly be characterised as a "sell-out".
However, the fact that the Government of public schoolboy millionaires say that they have made a final offer ought not to determine what the movement of the millions decides to do in response.
We can sensibly reject these paltry offers and fight on for more, mindful of the implications of the outcome of this dispute for every other issue which confronts our members.
The dispute about public sector pensions continues. UNISON's Service Group Executives (SGEs) must now decide whether or not UNISON shall continue to provide its leadership, or to cede that role to others.

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