The Socialist 23 November 2006
Public health not private profit
Local government pensions
We're no April fools!
ON 22 NOVEMBER, UNISON members are lobbying parliament about the local government pension scheme. The government is due to publish the new pensions regulations at the end of the month - effectively their "offer" for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Glenn Kelly UNISON national executive, personal capacity
There then has to be a formal 12-week consultation period, with the government planning to lay the regulations before parliament by 10 March 2007, to be in place for 1 April next year.
Whilst members will hope for the best we must ensure that we are prepared for the worst. It looks like the New Labour government are happy to join forces with the Tory employers and try to force through their attacks on our pension.
Six months of "talks" has got us nowhere. The calling off of the strike was seen as a sign of weakness on our part by the employers and they have now come back for more.
Assuming that the offer on 30 November is not good enough, then plans have been made for a new strike ballot and strike action in the New Year. This raises the question what sort of action should we take?
We need action which maximises our strength and puts the employer under maximum pressure. Selective action and regional strikes will not achieve this. This divides us and merely ends up relying on small groups of workers to try and win the dispute, whilst leaving the majority as passive on-lookers.
We believe that the action should be by the whole membership together. We also need to take action that will cause major disruption.
There is no point in token one-day strikes. The union should propose a programme of escalating action involving all the members starting with at least a two-day strike.
Scotland has separate negotiations on the pension scheme with their employers and the Scottish parliament. At the moment they have been offered a slightly better deal on protection than the rest of us and there are ongoing talks regarding their new-look scheme.
Because of this, some are arguing that Scotland should split away from the rest of the union and not take part in a joint action plan. But it would be a mistake to allow the employers to play a divide-and-rule game.
On 10 November it was announced that there is to be a special local government conference in February. This is no democratic conversion on the road to Damascus from the union leaders. They have been forced into this by the fact that over 25% of branches have called for it.
We need to ensure that branches have the right to submit whatever position they wish to this conference and that no blocking manoeuvres are used to try and silence debate.
The fact that so many branches voted for a special conference reflects the anger that exists at the mishandling of the dispute so far.
In our view a new strike committee should be elected to run the dispute, elected from lay members of all the service groups involved and it should be proportionate to the size of membership.
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