With health, teachers and civil servants having agreed a deal over pensions with the government, local government workers have been left to battle on alone. The government has now said they will scrap the “Rule of 85” under which some council workers can retire on a full pension at 60. If the “Rule of 85” ends, all two million local government workers will work until the age of 65 by 2013.
The government say the rule is “age discriminatory” and therefore illegal. That’s hogwash — the move to scrap it is part of the what the government wants to claw back from local government workers and their pension scheme. Draft proposals on changes to be made are due in the New Year.
Dave Prentis has said that Unison will take legal action against government plans. But he does not mention industrial action. It is also clear Unison are seeking a similar deal to the other public services i.e. a two-tier workforce with different pension rights for new workers.
That Prentis did not mention industrial action can be no surprise after the rally on local government pensions organised by Unison in London (and, according to the publicity, sponsored by all the public services unions in London) on 24 November.
There were about 40 people in the meeting when it started (late). The attendance grew later, but only to about 70. By then the hall was full: in other words, the Unison officials had planned for poor attendance.
Most were left-wing activists from the various public service unions. Apparently activists from Camden Unison went round their Town Hall — only a few yards away from where the rally was held — leafleting for the rally, and got a very poor response. In other words, most Unison local government members did not believe that the union would do anything.
Nor did the platform propose any industrial action. The speeches from the floor were generally good, critical, and militant, but in view of the attendance they lacked traction.
Plainly the line that the Government-TUC pensions deal approved by PCS, NUT, and Unison health would help local government workers was false. Local government workers are now isolated and in a weak position.
A fightback to stop the Government doing even worse to local government pensions than it will do to other public sector pensions will have to be a patient, tenacious organising among the rank and file to convince members that they do have some industrial strength and can force their leaders into action. But we haven’t got much time.