This kicks off with information about the continuing decline in defined benefit provision and the negative impact of quantitative easing on both defined benefit pensions (via gilt yields) and defined contribution pensions (via annuity rates). It goes on to remind us that the TUC welcomes imminent auto-enrolment of workers into pension schemes and to explain how the TUC is lobbying for a better deal for members of defined contribution schemes, before moving on to tell us of the TUC's lobbying against the accelerated increase in the state retirement age.
Strangely, reference to public service pensions is left until later.
Moving swiftly along, Chapter Four takes us on a whistlestop tour past poverty (which we're against), the National Minimum Wage (which we appear to love as much for the tripartism of the Low Pay Commission as for its economic impact), working time (too much - for those in work) and housing (too little).
The report then moves on to climate change and energy, an area in which an entire ecosystem of Committees has evolved for the TUC to participate in, whether it's by giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, welcoming the Green Investment Bank, contributing to the work of the Green Economy Council, sitting on the Energy Intensive Industries Task Group or having our very own Clean Coal Task Group. Our commitment to sustainable development is clear and there is obviously a lot going on (though to what effect is less clear).
Chapter Four then deals with transport and the Action for Rail campaign (www.actionforrail.org), campaigns in defence of bus services, and to regulate the hours worked by coach and HGV drivers, before getting to public services. Here we are reminded that TUC-speak for the largest strike in recent history is "Pensions Justice Day" which, it turns out, was led and coordinated by the TUC (which is not quite how I remember the day).
The report is cautiously optimistic that we may see off the break up of national pay bargaining in public services (the topic of discussion at this year's only meeting of the Public Services Forum between Ministers and unions). This optimism may be well founded but since national pay bargaining has not given us a pay rise for several years workplace celebrations may be muted.
Chapter Four is sound in its criticism of plans for "mutuals" in public services ("used to marketise public services") and in sounding the alarm about the "Community Right to Challenge" proposals in the Localism Act.
We also learn from the General Council report of how it was the TUC who led the (ultimately unsuccessful) fight against the Health and Social Care Act 2012. I did think UNISON had something to do with that. I imagine that activists in teaching unions will be as interested to learn of the TUC's pivotal role in dealing with Academy schools and the Higher Education White Paper.
The TUC has also been resisting privatisation in the criminal justice system, has given evidence to the Leveson Inquiry and has been excited (at some length) about the Olympics.
Overall, this longest chapter of the General Council report does give a mixed impression of an organisation sometimes playing a useful coordinating role, sometimes claiming credit for the work of affiliates and always seeing the world through the lens of lobbying and Committees and not from the perspective of the workplace, the street or the picket line.
More soon (bet you can't wait!)
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