One million workers in local government, members of Unison and other unions, are set to strike on 28 March against the Government's plans to cut their pension provision.
Some time back the Government declared its intention to raise the age at which public sector workers can claim their pensions, usually from 60 to 65. Most public sector unions agreed a deal with the Government in October 2005 whereby the pension age will be raised for all new entrants, but existing workers will be protected.
Local government workers, however, were not covered, and now face proposals to abolish the "Rule of 85" (which allows some to retire at 60 on a full pension) for all workers, including the existing ones.
80% of Unison members voted for strike action in a ballot turnout of 28%. The percentages voting for strike action in the other local government unions were:
The union leaders, however, have weakened the fight in advance by limiting the dispute to the issue of the "Rule of 85", which isn't equally an issue for all local government employees.
AWL members in Unison are fighting for the union to change strategy, and turn the campaign into an offensive one "for the right to life after work" - for the right to retire at 60 for all local government workers (i.e. not just those who satisfy the "Rule of 85").
In other public sector unions, we are arguing for the October 2005 agreement to raise the pension age to 65 for new workers to be challenged, so that all public sector workers can fight together.
And the unions should link their fight with the general campaign to raise Britain's almost uniquely low basic state pension and to index it to rise in line with average earnings in future.
Maximum turnout on 28 March is very important. But to win the workers will need more than a few one-day strikes. We will argue for the unions to start preparing now for sustained selective action (supported by national levies of all members) in areas where the action will hit revenue.