Sunday, March 04, 2012

Pensions - a fractured fight we need to repair

Following the unprecedented and impressive unity of purpose shown by trade unionists across the UK on 30 November, the "sector by sector" approach has now bequeathed us an entirely predictable fracturing of the struggle.

Some important trade unions - including PCS (http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/index.cfm/id/AB5B658A-34D0-40CE-8FDF94699F6C245E), NUT (http://www.teachers.org.uk/pensions) and UCU (http://markcampbell4gs.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/ucu-nec-unanimously-agree-to-join-with-nut-and-pcs-in-strike-action-on-march-28th/) are consulting their members about further action on 28 March. This action is likely to be concentrated amongst trade unionists in the teachers' and civil service pension funds.

Within UNISON, members are taking different paths and expressing different views. In Scotland our members in the NHS are resuming strike action (http://unison-scotland.blogspot.com/2012/03/unison-protesters-lobby-health-minister.html?m=1), whilst the same Service Group Executive which supports this action north of the border is prepared to see the mandate for action short of strike action in the Ambulance sector expire unused (http://news.nwasunison.com/2012/03/03/news-%e2%80%93-pensions-dispute-and-action-short-of-strike-for-ambulance-members/). Since health workers have already been notified of the imposition in April of the pension contribution increases against which they struck in November, the "Scottish strategy" seems the only way to keep a fight for decent pensions going for those in the NHS Pension Scheme.

As for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), the (funded) odd one out of the "big four" public sector pension schemes, we wait to hear if the Government will endorse proposals agreed by the negotiators. The emerging proposals which sound as if they were almost being marketed at the Community Service Group Conference (http://grayee.blogspot.com/2012/03/pensions-what-next-for-pensions-in.html?m=1) had been the subject of vigorous controversy at the Higher Education Service Group.

Whether or not sufficient branches support the call for a Special Local Government Conference ahead of a member ballot on the "big ticket" items for the 2014 LGPS, there could be considerable controversy - and it is established that branches and Regions may make their own recommendation in a ballot such as that envisaged in the next few weeks.

The premature shift away from a united front of all unions has shifted UNISON's leadership from the forefront to the sidelines of the struggle over public sector pensions. It will be up to UNISON's membership to decide if they (and we) stay there.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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