Unison emergency motion on pensions

Submitted by AWL on 15 May, 2006 - 2:20

Emergency Motion from Tower Hamlets Local Government Unison branch to Unison Local Government Service Group conference, 18/19 June 2006.

Pensions – Suspension of Industrial Action

This (branch/stewards committee/meeting) expresses our shock and anger at the decision by the Local Government Service Group Executive to suspend our industrial action on pensions on the basis of the “Joint Statement from unions and employers on further talks over the future of the local government pension scheme.”

The joint strike action was the biggest and most solid ever seen in Local Government. Regions and branches were gearing up for rolling regional action and the prospect of two days national election before May’s local elections. Members had reacted enthusiastically to the decision by Unison’s Labour Link to suspend all financial and other support for Labour until the pensions dispute is resolved satisfactorily.

This was undoubtedly the best time for us to fight to defend our pensions, and for us to negotiate from a position of strength.

Instead the joint statement accepts the abolition of the Rule of 85. This explicitly breaks policy agreed at 2005 Conference which states:

“Conference categorically rejects any suggestion of 'compromise agreements' on this matter and Conference agrees that its opposition to increasing to 65 the age of entitlement to an unreduced pension is not negotiable.”
and that

“no major changes to the pension scheme are agreed to by UNISON unless there has been prior approval by a ballot of all UNISON members eligible to join by the scheme.”
The statement accepts the creation of a two tier pension scheme, with worse conditions for new starters, breaking solidarity between generations and leaving us open to future attacks, and does not even achieve the guarantee of protection for existing members, and equality with the rest of the public sector, that General Secretary Dave Prentis had declared was his bottom line.

We totally reject the hypocrisy of government ministers who voted for millions of pounds extra of public funds to underwrite MP’s generous pensions whilst laying regulations that force detrimental changes to our pensions, and Company directors who squeal about public sector pensions whilst awarding themselves lavish pensions.

Many of our members will feel that the timing of the suspension allows the employers to spin out negotiations beyond the local elections had has more to do with not damaging Labour’s prospects in those elections than with protecting our pensions.

We resolve:

  • To instruct our negotiators to produce regular updates on negotiations, in a format that is readily available to all members
  • To demand that any offer goes to a recalled Local Government Service Group Conference and a ballot of the affected members.
  • To call on the Labour Link not to re-instate support for Labour until the dispute is resolved to the satisfaction of our members
  • To encourage regions and branches to maintain joint local strike committees to prepare for further industrial action in the event that a satisfactory offer does not emerge from talks.

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 15/05/2006 - 14:25

In our view (AWL), the Unison Labour Link decision to suspend funds and active assistance for Labour at local government level during the dispute was an empty "lovers' tiff" gesture. Unison should using its clout within Labour structures to fight for Unison policies. It should be actively supporting those Labour candidates who are loyal to trade-union principles. That is the best way to develop the forces for a new working-class party, based on the unions, and breaking from Blair and Brown.

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 15/05/2006 - 22:27

In reply to by AWL

While I substantially agree, I think that assessment is a bit harsh.

Yes, it is a gesture; yes, UNISON could and should have had a more proactive policy towards the council elections.

But, despite all that, the suspension of support for Labour during this dispute was right. And, whilst drawing attention to its limits, we should say so.

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