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Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Friday, December 09, 2011

Everyone deserves a decent pension - solidarity with Unilever strikers

Before yesterday's meeting of UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) got underway, the very first thing the NEC did, at the request of our General Secretary, was to send a message of support to workers at Unilever, striking today to defend their pensions (

Unilever is a profitable global giant which makes Persil, Marmite and Pot Noodles but it claims it cannot afford decent pensions for UK workers who help make its profits. The company's European Works Council has expressed solidarity with the strikers (

1,700 UNITE members are striking today alongside approximately 650 members of GMB and USDAW. They deserve the support of all trade unionists in this important defensive struggle. Pensions are deferred pay whether you receive them from a private company or a public sector body.

Whilst the task of the moment is to defend what pension provision we have, whether in the public or private sectors, we need to think also about the policy demands which our movement should make to try to achieve decent pensions for all.

Jerry Jones, in the Morning Star last week, made a cogent case for a single, independently administered, Government-backed "pay as you go" defined benefit pension for all employees ( An alternative would be to open up "admitted body" status in the Local Government Pension Scheme to any private employer able to pay their way ( For the sake of our members in the private and voluntary sectors who don't have decent pensions, as much as for the wider unity of our class we need to develop and promote a policy to provide dignity in retirement for all citizens.

My favourite UNISON placard in our current campaign is the one that says "Everyone Deserves a Decent Pension" - and it is because we must give effect to this sentiment that our NEC was right to send solidarity to the Unilever strikers - and we will be right to think further about what we would want a future Government to do when drafting Conference motions for 2012.

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