The Government has announced its intention that the pension retirement age for public sector workers should be 65.
On top of that they want to replace “final salary” schemes by “career average” schemes.
They flagged up these intentions a long time ago — the change to the pension age was announced in a Green Paper more than two years ago — yet only in the last few months has the trade union movement really started to react.
The civil service union, PCS, has urged a co-ordinated response. That work is now paying off.
As we go to press all local government workers represented by Unison, T&G and UCATT are due to be balloted for a one-day strike on 23 March.
The Northern Ireland public sector union, NIPSA, has agreed to join in.
PCS itself is expected to decide to ballot members for a 23 March strike at an emergency Executives meeting on 3 February.
Efforts to move the strike date a bit earlier, out of the school holidays, so that workers in education could also join in, failed. There is now talk of a second strike day later, with NUT, NATFHE and, possibly, council workers organised by GMB taking part.
NUT has decided to ballot its members for strike action area by area.
The first task now is to win the ballots and get as many people as possible out on 23 March.
The day of action called by the TUC on Friday 18 February will be a good opportunity to build the campaign. In some areas local public sector union branches are already getting together to plan for it.
We also need to start talking about action after 23 March.
Possibly PCS, Unison, etc., will produce joint material for the ballot and strike. Such unity should be built both at national and at local level.
There should be a common negotiating position from all the unions, and a call to the Government for joint bargaining.
Behind all the proposed changes is the Government.
The unions should go to the people who make the decisions, rather than be fobbed off with piecemeal negotiations with their intermediaries, be they council chiefs or top civil servants.
We should insist on more joint campaigning material and meetings after 23 March.
We have to be honest. A one-day strike, no matter how well supported, will not be enough. More industrial action will be needed, and we have to raise the politics of the pension struggle.
Why do the state and companies react to increased longevity by making workers work longer?
We have to contrast the needs of the workers to those of the boss class.
Alongside the official structures doing joint work, having a common negotiating position, etc., the rank and file must get organised as well.
Leeds NUT has launched an initiative to get local branches to band together. That work should be intensified.
A branch-based campaign could act as a counterweight to the often sluggish tendencies of the high officials of the unions.
The labour movement has to act together on this. Now is the time to make solidarity work!
by a civil servant