(UPDATE evening of 20/12/11: Although local government unions (UNISON, GMB, UNITE) had signed an outline agreement, that has now been suspended – also, see additional quotes (below) and report of yesterday’s lobby of the TUC Public Sector Liason Group http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13371/20-12-2011/tuc-lobby-demands-no-retreat-on-pensions)
Trade unionists have reacted angrily to news that several unions have signed outline agreements with the government over public sector pensions (see comments below). The BBC reports that UNISON has signed an agreement in respect of the health service pension, whilst they may also be on the verge of signing one in respect of the local government pension scheme and the ATL has signed an agreement in respect of the teachers pensions scheme. These will be referred to bodies within those unions for further ratification.
These ‘deals’ make very minor concessions over when increased payments would start, and over accrual rates, but fundamentally, as PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has pointed out, it is still “Pay more and work longer for less”. They fall well short of what members of the 27 unions that took strike action balloted in defence of and as such should be rejected, as the PCS has done, with preparations been made for further action in the new year, on a date such as January 25th.
These attempts to sell out public sector workers must be fought. We urge people to sign the petition organised by the National Shop Stewards Network (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pensions_strike_january/), as well as sending letters and resolutions to the TUC and union national executives demanding that they do not sell out the pensions struggle and immediately set the date for a strike in January in coordination with the other public sector unions.
We also urge those union reps in unions that took strike action on N30 to take up PCS Left Unity’s call for an open conference to demand further strike action over pensions which will be taking place on Saturday 7th January at Friends Meeting House (near Euston station, London) starting at 11am. (for more info see http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13369/17-12-2011/defend-pensions-escalate-action-name-day-for-national-strike)
A Trainee Teacher at Leeds University commented
Last week the con-dem government pledged to continue its assault on teacher’s pensions and retirement ages, a pledge which, unlike the Tories’ promise not to sell off the NHS, and the fib-dems’ promise not to raise VAT, is one which teachers and trade unionists have no doubt they wish to carry through.
“This week it seems the so called ‘leadership’ of Unison are only too happy to play along with the government’s divide and rule tactics by rolling over and accepting a petty sop, despite the magnificent show of rank and file unity on 30th November.
The only way to win this fight, a fight that must be won to protect the living standards not just of teachers, civil servants and other public-sector workers, but all working class people, is to stick together, stand up and fight.
“As Mark Serwotka has said; ‘Thanks but no thanks. We won’t be bullied, we won’t be intimidated’.
“Dropping dead in the classroom at 70 years old is not part of my lesson plan.
A local government worker and Unison steward said
My members will be disgusted that Dave Prentis is attempting to sell out on our pensions. After all the efforts of the Leeds Local Government branch stewards put in to bring out our members, if UNISON sells us out, we the members will be poorer for it. We need to stop Prentis from doing that!
A psychotherapist in the NHS and UNISON member commented
The government’s latest offer is only a marginal improvement on proposals made before public sector workers chose to stand up to the government on N30 and certainly does almost nothing to address the long list of lies and injustices described in Unison’s own literature encouraging members to vote for and take industrial action.
“Unison leaders have bought in to blatant divide and rule tactics by accepting an offer that places greater divisions between workers on the basis of age and pay band, the sort of discrimination that unions are supposed to fight to overcome.
“Given that at least two million union members have shown that they are prepared to sacrifice pay from an already depleted wage packet to fight for what is just for them and the vulnerable people they support, it beggars belief that Unison would choose to back down when the fight has only just begun. If this is the level of representation the union offers its members in a dispute that has massive support it is no wonder that union membership has fallen so dramatically in recent years.
“If Unison’s executive committee decide support this offer they will be helping the government facilitate its attack on public sector workers and push through changes that pave the way for privatisation; this is not what I and my colleagues went on strike for, it feels like a betrayal.
Nick, a PCS rep working for HMRC explained (in a personal capacity)
It is clear from looking at the proposals being made regarding the health and local government pension scheme, that the government are not giving any real concessions. Anyone under 50 will still have to work between 3 and 8 years longer, the increased contributions have simply been delayed by one year for those earning between £15001 and £26557, and employees will still get less in retirement.
“UNISON’s negotiators therefore have no right to make any sort of agreement with the government. All rank and file union members should put pressure on the leadership to stand firm with PCS in rejecting what is currently on the table, and to call further co ordinated strike action in January.
A community sector worker and UNISON activist told us
Thousands of low paid workers will be disgusted and angry at this downright abject surrender by these so-called leaders of our union.
“If the deal’s so good I dare them to put it to a special national delegate conference