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Organising to step up the pensions struggle
"PCS Left Unity have called this emergency meeting because this is an emergency" PCS president Janice Godrich said as she welcomed around 500 union activists to an open organising meeting yesterday in Friends Meeting House in London (up to 550 attended over the day, with at least 470 registering).
The turnout was remarkable considering the event had been called with three weeks notice and took place just after Christmas and New Year.
All the left union organisations in PCS, Unison, NUT, Unite and UCU were present and agreed to take part in a Temporary Coordinating Committee to work across the unions to ensure that the government's pensions deal is rejected and a new strike date is set.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka asked the meeting: How can union leaders like Dave Prentis and Brendan Barber consider wasting the momentum of the 30th November strike action when what's been offered by the government was largely on the table before the strike?
The NUT deputy general secretary welcomed the intiative from PCS Left Unity and told the audience that the NUT and NASUWT have joined PCS in rejecting the deal on offer.
Many speakers who are in Unison, in a personal capacity condemned the hypocrisy of Unison's leadership - leader Dave Prentis said in the summer that it would take more than one strike to defeat the Con-Dems' pension attacks yet the health national officer Christina McAnea commented after Unison signed the 'heads of agreement' before Christmas that the strike had only been a "damage limitation exercise".
Unison activists announced that they will be lobbying the Unison health and local government executives on Tuesday to convince delegates to overturn the decision of the leaders.
Alex Gordon, president of the RMT, gave the support of his union and he and Mark Serwotka called for all future action to be coordinated with private sector workers like those defending their pensions at Unilever and the electricians in the construction industry fighting a 35% pay cut.
A number of speakers welcomed the unity of the meeting, which also saw Mark Campbell from UCU speak but there was an air of frustration from some attendees that the SWP-initiated 'Unite the Resistance' had felt the need to organise a duplicate conference the week after. However, everyone felt that the event galvanised the forces needed to put pressure on Unison and the TUC when it meets on Thursday, which will also be lobbied.
See also video: