Trade unions in local government have accepted a “deal” on pensions not very different from what we went on strike against on 30 November.
The only actual “improvement” is on the increase in members’ contributions. Contribution rates will, for now, be unchanged for many workers, and lower for some part-time workers, though higher for workers on over £43,00 a year.
Among other things, public sector unions have conceded that the retirement age will go up in line with state pension age (so if you're under 37 now that's likely to be 70), as well as the switch to a career average scheme, as opposed to final salary (which is against the policy of Unison, the biggest public sector union)
As Unison activists we have been expecting the leadership to come forward with a shoddy deal at some point. This deal is worse than even we expected. The lack of transparency and consultation has also been outrageous. Our conference starts on 17 June; without a fight this deal will not be discussed in any meaningful way there and delegates will not get a vote.
The leadership has responded to a call for a debate at conference by suggestions that conference is “unrepresentative”, and may make the “wrong decision”.
This attack on the limited democracy we have is unacceptable; conference should be our highest decision-making body, and is more representative than any other body as it is made up of elected delegates from branches.
There has even been a suggestion that a ballot on accepting the deal will be conducted in August, guaranteeing a low turnout. So much for wanting the decision to be representative.
We need to organise ourselves not in terms of a self-defined “left”, but as people who want to see a union that fights. Our first task is to fight for this deal to be debated at conference, and for conference to make the recommendation for the ballot. Any ballot must be conducted in term-time to include all members and give the best opportunity for a high turnout. It should also be made clear that members have the right to reject this deal, as our colleagues in the NHS did when they voted on their equivalent offer, and that there is an alternative.
Unison members in local government branches need to pass emergency motions by 8 June calling for this issue to be debated at conference.
• Local government workers in the GMB and Unite unions will also vote on the deal.