Thursday, March 01, 2012

LGPS - what's the hurry?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that getting an email bulletin about pensions negotiations should be a cause of concern to anyone with an interest in their welfare in old age.

Yesterday's UNISON Focus is a case in point. First, because our negotiators appear to have reached a tentative understanding with the employers' side negotiators about the so-called "big ticket items" for the future of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) but, until we know the views of the Government we mere scheme members cannot know the terms of the understanding.

Secondly, because we are told that there will be a member ballot in March (because we have apparently bought into an unnecessarily tight timetable as the "price" of the Government's previous (and unavoidable) acceptance of the pointlessness (from their own point of view) of forcing through contribution increases before 2014).

To call a ballot to a timetable which will ensure that few branches will have an opportunity to give proper consideration to a recommendation to our members smacks of an approach in which we will be presented with an outcome "which is the best that can be achieved by negotiation."

Our negotiators won't try too brazenly to "sell" this outcome to us (although they will remind us of just how far this outcome is from the Government's opening position many months ago)(as every negotiated outcome always would have been).

They will however also explain just how prolonged and sustained the strike action would need to be that would stand any chance of improving on this outcome.

If all this happens in the next month that will betray an agenda to acquiesce in a poorer pensions settlement for the future.

Only if we are given adequate time for decisionmaking and a real debate between opposing views can we credibly claim that our trade union is still fighting for our pensions.

And, of course, the real tragedy is that - after a brief burst of apparent understanding in the autumn, we seem to have retreated to the mistaken view that what we have been engaged in has been, primarily, an industrial dispute against pensions, when in fact it has been an important moment in an ideological war being waged against our members and our class.
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