Friday, August 17, 2012

What are we going to do now?

GMB members have accepted the proposals for the future of the Local Government Scheme (LGPS 2014) by 95% (http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/latest_news/95_vote_yes_for_pensions_ea.aspx#). The press release doesn't reveal the turnout, but it's a decisive result.
Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Trotwatcher) will know that I am a committed rejectionist, believing that the detrimental change to the uprating of pensions in payment, and the increase in the normal pension age, in particular make this a poor deal - and that the rapid retreat from industrial action after 30 November, and the consequent sacrificing of trade union unity, has squandered the best chance our trade unions have had in this Parliament to inflict a defeat on this Government.
However, I think it's clear that UNISON's ballot will also return an acceptance. I understand that national officials are hoping for a "yes" vote in the 80s (%) and a turnout above 25% (the latter to justify holding the ballot in the summer holidays and the former to silence critics of the decision to embark on the ballot in breach of Local Government Conference Policy). In a little over a week we'll know if they've hit these (not particularly ambitious) targets.
The left must, as ever, follow the advice of Chumbawumba and must, if knocked down, get up again. We have to turn the discontent felt by members as prices (for food, utilities and transport) spiral above our frozen pay into a willingness to take action once more.
In so doing we need to strengthen our organisation at the base of the union and build democratic rank and file organisation amongst activists so that, when we repeat the effort which brought us out last 30 November, we are better able to avoid what then happened afterwards. Part of this work will entail taking up in the union arguments about democracy, including the rights of branches to campaign and the requirement upon Service Group Executives (SGEs) to abide by Conference policies.
I hope we don't have to spend time and energy defending activists from any ill-judged action against those whose interpretation of Rule B.2.5 differs from that of the officials - but that choice is in the hands of others. I have been clear throughout that I allege that the conduct of national officials in respect of this issue have breached UNISON Rules in a number of ways. These disagreements should be debated through our democratic structures (rather than in formal investigations, or outside the union).
Whilst we need to move on to the fight against the pay freeze (alongside the endless diet of redundancies and privatisation with which we are being force-fed) we cannot simply not use the word "pensions" (that was tried and failed). I think we need to look back over the past 27 months to work out what went right, what went wrong and what could have been done better.
For the future, having conceded the link between the LGPS pension age and the state pension age, we need now to campaign for reductions in the state pension age - ideally by joining the "68 is too late" campaign. We need to swallow our pride and support wholeheartedly a campaign initiated by other unions. So-called "UNISON chauvinism" is one of our least attractive features as a trade union (and, as it is the labour movement equivalent of severe halitosis, helps explain why no other unions want to merge with us).
Having failed to fight the switch from RPI to CPI to uprate pensions in payment (the greatest theft of all) with sufficient vigour before it was implemented - and then put all our eggs in the broken basket of a legal challenge - all we can do is press for a new and better index to uprate pensions and benefits. This will also be a campaign for all unions - and many others.
On both these vital issues (which taken together mean that we have lost unequivocally on two of the three demands of our 30 November strike) we need to influence the policies of Her Majesty's Opposition as much as of her Government. UNISON Labour Link needs to raise its game to get a lower state pension age and a better index for uprating in Labour's manifesto for the next General Election.
There's a lot for UNISON activists to do, whatever next week's ballot result.


Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange









1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This blog by a unison rep has a leaked e-mail from a senior union official which shows how far they were prepared to go to secure a yes vote, including spying on their own activists:
http://libcom.org/blog/unison-officials-spy-their-own-activists-ensure-yes-vote-pensions-25082012