Following recent developments over Public Service pensions I thought I would give my take on things. There has been lot of excited and largely ill-informed postulating.
On Friday the main local government unions UNISON, Unite and the GMB agreed "a joint statement on discussions on a new set of principles and timetable for detailed negotiations on pensions....if agreed, the unions believe they "lay a positive framework" for full negotiations to start in January....The statement stresses that no decisions have been taken over details surrounding contribution increases or the future look of the local government pension scheme". The Government was willing to proceed on this basis. However it seems that Eric Pickles MP has been doing his best to wreck a deal. It appears that his silly letter has now been withdrawn.
Yesterday UNISON health negotiators received a final offer from the employers which they quite rightly intend to consult upon with the Health Service Group elected lay Representatives.
Other unions (with the one exception of the main Civil Service union PCS) appear to be close to an "outline deal".
No-one cannot seriously argue that there hasn't been significant changes and improvements to schemes since the decision was taken to ballot for strike action. Also as the TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said : "Since the day of action on November 30, we've seen a new atmosphere in the negotiations".
I think that some commentators are in danger of cutting their nose to spite their face. They also clearly do not understand that it is not and never has been (and never will IMO) the role of British trade unions to take action against the wishes and interests of its members. We are interested in resolving trade disputes and not engaging in infantile and doomed toy town revolutionary politics. While I am very proud of the work that my union does to change society and promote a progressive agenda. We put the interests of our members first and not what are told to believe by extremist central committees.
By coincidence yesterday evening I was at Congress House in London for a UNISON Regional Council Officer meeting. There was also a meeting of the TUC Public Services Liaison Group to discuss the negotiations. Outside the main entrance was about 25 protesters (see picture) calling for a National Strike (and various other things). I went outside to see what was going on and had even had a chat with my former branch chair. I must admit that I did wonder why these tiny number of protesters thought that they had the right to "demand" that 6 million TUC members do as they tell them?
The elected lay Representatives of the Union will decide what to do next. Ordinary trade union members will have the final say about whether these changes are sufficient to settle this dispute. They will vote in a secret ballot either: Yes or No.