Saturday, June 18, 2011

"It will be the biggest since the general strike. It won't be the miners' strike. We are going to win."

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis warns the government of the biggest strike in 100 years (today's Guardian & also BBC report). 

All power to Dave's elbow.  Let us be absolutely clear.  Public sector pension funds are not in crisis.  They are not unaffordable.  They are not "gold plated".  The massive 50% plus proposed increase in contributions as well as increases in retirement age are an excuse to cut spending.  Nothing more and nothing less.  So nurse, teachers, carers, receptionists and town hall clerks are being forced to pay for the past theft, fraud and corruption of the financial services sector and the Banks.  Who are now returning to their bad old ways with huge increases in their bonuses and bankrolling their mates in the Tory Party.  While at the same time said public sector workers are having their pension contributions increased they are facing years of pay freezes while inflation cuts their pay by 5% per year (and gas prices going up by 20%).  If pension subs go up by 50% many people will leave the schemes and they could collapse.

Only a few years ago there was a serious dispute over pensions which brought about radical change.  Much of which the unions were not happy about but compromised in order to secure the funds future.  Now this agreement is being ripped up.  Forget the fibs and scare mongering of the Daily Hate and the Tax Evaders Alliance.  The Local Government Pension Scheme is cash rich and worth over £160 billion.  The NHS pension scheme has a cost sharing agreement.  If employer contribution goes over 14% (close to the traditional final salary norm) then the employees will bear the cost.  Even the Conservative Party dominated Public Accounts committee accept that public penisons are affordable. Finally, never forget that Hutton found that the average public sector pension for a women is only about £4000 a year.

Dave Prentis makes it clear that he still wants to negotiate and that we will not be taking industrial action for industrial actions sake - but as a means to get an acceptable agreement.  Dave quite rightly expects the full support of the Labour Party over this dispute.  I am pleased that Newham Council recently passed this motion at our Annual General Meeting.

Tomorrow UNISON begins its Service Group conferences in Manchester and its National Delegate Conference begins on Tuesday morning.  Pensions will be the top issue.


Anonymous said...

Hi John,

I agree 100%.

I was elected as a Labour Co-op Councillor in May for Sowerby Bridge Ward in Calderdale. I had the pleasure of beating a right wing Tory.

Could you let me have a copy of the LGA letter you mention. I'm looking to put this motion to our Labour Group.

email me at

Dave Draycott

John Gray said...

Hi Dave

Congrats! Well done!!!!!

I'll email you the motion next but here it is if anyone else wants to use it.

Council notes: The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is a sustainable, good quality pension scheme that benefits from being funded and locally managed. It is valuable to employers and employees alike. Successive governments have failed to recognise the distinctiveness of the LGPS in setting policy, most notably in the proposal announced by the Chancellor in the last CSR to impose an extra 3.2% contribution tax on scheme members, increasing scheme average member contributions from 6.6% to 9.8%. This tax does not benefit the scheme or scheme members or employers. This proposal is in addition to pension reductions caused by being indexed against CPI instead of RPI and is in advance of expected benefit reform recommendations from the Hutton Review.

Council agrees: An increase in member contributions as proposed will lead to mass opt outs from the LGPS and that would be undesirable and damaging. The views expressed by the LGA in its letter to the Chancellor dated 16 February 2011 on this subject are also the views of this Council.

Council resolves: Council will write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Local Government within the next month stating this Councils support for the LGA letter referred to above and calling for government to rethink it’s proposed increases to LGPS member contributions. Council will work with Trade Unions to ensure employees are made aware of the proposals for the LGPS and encouraging them to support the Council’s representations to defend their pension scheme.

John Gray said...

Whoops just realised that Dave wanted LGA letter 16.2.11

its here

but there has been further useful letters here

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Is this a battle you think we can win?

I was talking a member of staff at unison yesterday who was very pessimistic. The nub of his argument was that the Government are spoiling for a fight on this issue as they believe they can get the public on their side.

Thankfully I've more faith in NEC members such as yourself!

Let's hope we come through this one with an increased and better organised membership

John Gray said...

Hi anon

Yes we can win on this. The future of the pension scheme is at stake. It will be "put up or shut up". I think that the whole of the NEC is behind this.

There is always risk but the risk of doing nothing is far worse.