Workers' Liberty resolution on pensions campaign, 22/12/11

Submitted by martin on 22 December, 2011 - 7:09

1. AWL campaigns for unions to reject capitulation on public sector pensions, and instead to organise ongoing, escalating, self-controlling action to push back the Government on that issue.

2. Such action should be linked to resistance on pay and jobs. It should include rolling and selective strikes as well as set-piece all-out demonstration strikes, and a broad political campaign for "fair pensions for all" and "taxing the rich" as well as industrial action.

3. The decision by several union leaders on 19 December to sign "headline agreements" with the Government on pensions was a sell-out. The Government has not moved a millimetre from its basic plan laid out in 2010, and is explicit that any changes from its detailed proposal on 2 November are only rejiggings within an unchanged template.

4. If the sell-out sticks - and just after the Government has announced harsher plans on public sector jobs and pay - it will encourage the Government to step up attacks on those other issues of jobs and pay, and on the very fabric of public sector union organisation.

5. The sell-out, if it sticks, is a major setback. It is not, however, a closing-off of all chances of effective resistance to the Government's cuts plans. Working-class history shows many examples where workers have let big attacks go through quietly, but then roused themselves militantly on what would seem to have been less promising issues. In particular, if the eurozone crisis develops as it probably will, there are serious chances of working-class militancy in Britain being spurred on by examples of militant struggle elsewhere in Europe.

6. AWL was right to make campaigning for rank and file control and union democracy our major theme in the pensions dispute. The sell-out has been possible only because of a culture in which top union leaders can announce (via the media) to the principal actors in the drama - the union rank and file, and the Government - that the campaign is over, or almost over, or probably over; and the union leaders do not even have to notify their union Executives of the details they have signed up to or tacitly accepted as a basis until later.

7. We call for emergency meetings of union Executives and union committees and branches at all levels. We call for those meetings to repudiate the sell-out and reorient the unions to a continuing campaign.

8. We argue for the unions whose leaders have rejected the "headline agreements" - PCS, NIPSA, Unite health sector - to set out plans now for further action. A large number of unions have "reserved their position" or demurred from the "headline agreements" without flatly rejecting them (notably: NUT, NASUWT, UCU, Prospect). We demand they come out for clear rejection and join the plans for further action. Even if Unison and other unions cannot be budged from capitulation, PCS, NUT, and other unions have sufficient clout to force serious concessions from the Government, if they organise a serious campaign. If they do that, they will probably rally some smaller unions round them. If they signal hesitation, they will consolidate the sell-out camp and isolate themselves.

9. Of the union leaderships, PCS has responded least badly. But even PCS says only that "further industrial action [will] be necessary... if the government continue[s] to refuse to negotiate on the core issues". We call on PCS to propose further industrial action - and not just a single further one-day strike for the sake of its militant reputation - and to set its demand as defence of existing pension rights, not just agreement by the government to negotiate.

10. We support an emergency rank and file delegate conference of public sector trade unionists. An important feature of the current situation is the lack of independent rank and file organisations within the various unions. AWL comrades should be expected both to make propaganda for the building of such organisations and to look for opportunities to make initiatives to create them within their own unions

11. We will take a motion summarising the above points to the conference called by PCS Left Unity for all public sector trade unionists on 7 January.

12. We will seek to help to organise a broad fringe meeting on the afternoon of that conference, to try to bring together activists who broadly agree with rejecting the sell-out and arguing for a continuing and escalating campaign.

13. We welcome the initiative of PCS Left Unity in calling the 7 January meeting. We are concerned, however, that (a) publicity suggests an event dominated by top-table speeches; (b) the headline slogan for the meeting, "Name the date", suggests a plan to have a token further PCS one-day strike (only); (c) the description of the event as "an organising meeting, not a discussion forum" could be used to stifle debate on action beyond that token and on lessons of the dispute.

14. If asked to sign the petition against the sell-out initiated by Alex Kenny and Martin Powell-Davies of the NUT Executive, it was ok to do so, where signatures for the petition might produce, for example, a tally of a majority of members of a union Executive or committee for rejection, or where signatures signal to other activists campaigning against the sell-out our solidarity with them. But it was a poor initiative, not worth effort to promote it positively; it has produced no more than a limp SWP trade-union contact list, with no ability to shift things. The text is unclear about further action, and silent about trade-union democracy. Kenny and Powell-Davies should have done what Gill George did in the Unite health sector: convene, one way or another, an emergency meeting of the NUT Executive to exercise control over the top officials.

15. We welcome the initiative of the SP/NSSN in calling a demonstration at the TUC public sector committee meeting on 19 December. But we note that the demonstration did not include any of the SP's leading trade-unionists in PCS, and in part consisted of the SP gathering on the streets to demand union leaders "Name the date" for a further one-day strike when the SP's own union leaders, in PCS, were not doing that.


Submitted by martin on Mon, 26/12/2011 - 10:48

The SP tells us that John McInally turned up at some point on the NSSN lobby on 19 December. Apologies for the error, and for the fact that we missed his speech. It still remains true that the SP's leading people in PCS were not prominent on the lobby, and that the lobby had in part the character of the SP gathering on the streets and in the wintry rain to demand of union leaders generally what the SP could do at will through the PCS leadership but hasn't done: "Name the date".

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