The Socialist 1 February 2012
Fight this profit-mad system
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Unison pensions cowardice
The devil's in the detail!
A Unison member
Since 10 January Unison's right-wing lay leadership, and the bureaucracy at whose bidding they act, have been attempting to sell their position on the local government pension scheme (LGPS) around the regions. Their hypocrisy in this endeavour is at times breathtaking, having abandoned the campaign of strike action, leaving the militant unions to fight alone, they nonetheless pretend that if necessary they will go back to strike action!
This is done on the basis that the motion carried by all the affected Service Group Executive committees refers to an on-going dispute with the government, and the ballot results being "live". But few Unison members can expect further strike action following the break with those unions prepared to fight for a decent deal on pensions.
What is most likely to happen is that a few minor concessions will be negotiated, still leaving members in a 'pay more, work longer, get less' situation. A shabby deal will be recommended to members in a ballot, accompanied by a campaign of glossy literature and computerised presentations, misrepresenting the deal as something good.
But the hypocrisy does not stop there, they are also attempting to pretend that they have not agreed to the government's 'heads of agreement', the principles that are the prerequisite for continuing talks. The motion referred to above contains the line: "To reserve our position on the detail of the LGPS principles and timetable until firm proposals emerge from the negotiations".
The nonsensical nature of this piece of sophistry can best be illustrated by the fact that the principles include the commitment that the age that members can draw their full pension will be linked to the increasing age that they can draw the old age pension. What "detail" can possibly make any difference to that?
In reality Unison's position has been shown to be pathetic by the fact that both PCS and Unite have been allowed into the talks without agreeing to these principles. Further action by the fighting unions will put pressure on Unison's leadership, as Unison members refuse to cross picket lines, and question why their union is sitting on the sidelines.
Unison branches should pass motions demanding that Unison join with those unions who are prepared to take further action to defend members' pensions.
The forthcoming elections for the Service Group Executive committees will give Unison members the chance to have their say on the mishandling of the pensions dispute, by electing fighting leaderships in each Service Group.
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