UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Now is the Time to Grab Hearts and Minds

The great issue in the trade union world that we live in at the moment is the issue of our pensions. There is little doubt that the only way that we will influence our main foe in this fight is by taking strike action against the Tory Government.

Let’s be realistic- Nick Clegg and his band are only the monkeys- never the organ grinders, albeit very well pampered monkeys. The reality is that they now just obey the orders from Tory Central. And they ain’t paid in monkey nuts are they? It would be nice to get a final salary pension based on a ministerial salary that average around £100,000.

But in the meantime, what can we be doing? Can I suggest making our elected representatives aware of what they are doing to us? In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are parliamentary elections. In England there are local elections. In every election we need to raise the issue of public sector cuts.

And as the cuts in our pensions are just part of the way in which we are being asked to pay for the bankers crisis, then we need to ask every candidate where they stand on this issue.

And let’s be clear about that. We need to ask every candidate. The trade union movement in this country reached an agreement with the last Labour Government in about the question of public sector pensions. Is the Labour Party in opposition going to renege on that agreement?

Let us not pretend that we can believe in anything that political parties actually say in their manifestos .The lessons of the last general election have to be learnt. . Did Cameron actually mention privatising the NHS? What did the Lib–Dems say about tuition fees? - Certainly not, let’s raise them to £9000 a year. Bet that would not have gone down so well in university constituencies.

But individual candidates are a different species. As candidates they need to make sure that they are responding to the public that they think they are appealing to. And we are part of that public. By “we” in that sentence, I mean as individuals we can make a difference.

By all means raise this issue in your branch, or your stewards committee. Get as many people as possible involved. But don’t expect that others will take responsibility for contacting the candidates in your ward or your constituency. If you don’t, probably no one will. The politicians will be off the hook again.

So for the next few weeks we have an opportunity. It is your pension that is going down the drain. So your local politicians need to know where you stand on this issue. Candidates respond to voter pressure, and very few candidates are put under real pressure. Unison provides excellent information on the pension’s issue.

Check it out and GET LOBBYING by email, snail mail or by turning up in person. http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/protectour.asp

Hutton asks us to swallow that we should pay more for longer for a smaller pension. And let us not forget that the increase in contributions that we are being asked to pay won’t go into our pension schemes, but into the Treasury.

Whether you are talking to a candidate for Trumpton Town Council, or Stormont or Edinburgh or Cardiff, be they Tory, LibDem Labour or Scot or WelshNat, before you think of voting ask where they stand on the public sector pensions debate. Put them on the spot. Political pressure only works if we all use the influence that we have.

Jane Carolan