Under increased pressure from the government, labour movement bureaucrats look like caving in the pensions fight. A 15 December meeting of the TUC's Public Service Liaison Group saw TUC leader Brendan Barber urge unions to sign up to the government's latest offer (which includes no movement at all on the basic framework of pensions reform and would still involve workers working longer, paying more and getting less). This would effectively allow the government to declare the dispute over before Christmas.
Unison leader Dave Prentis joined Barber in recommending acceptance of the shoddy deal. The teaching unions and civil service union PCS are less enthusiastic.
Any outcome that sees the government's basic plan - higher employee contributions, higher retirement age, less reward - enacted is a defeat for workers. That some of the leaders of our unions are rushing to sell such a dismal outcome to us as the best we can get proves only that the bureaucratic leadership of our movement must be challenged, and challenged now, for control of this dispute.
All labour movement bodies - individual union branches, Trades Council, strike committees and other bodies - should pass policy as soon as possible making it clear that defence of existing pension schemes is an absolute bottom-line and pushing for the announcement and organisation of further industrial action now.
Workers must find ways to take control of our own dispute. It is not enough to "lobby" our leaders to act in our interests. We must organise to make it impossible for them to lead us back down the hill, Duke of York style. We are not Barber and Prentis's stage army. Unions that oppose the deal, and dissident branches within Unison and other unions whose leaders look like accepting it, should organise together now to discuss campaigning against the deal and organising further action - unofficially if necessary.