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

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

New Era begins for UNISON - report of NEC 13 April 2011

We christened the new UNISON building today with a National Executive Council, held days before the formal move of the staff from Mabledon Place. President Angela Lynes described it as "a stunning new centre for our organisation and one which will hopefully last for generations to come". An ambitious but financially prudent move, the new centre is already a landmark in the capital and a credit to everyone involved. http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=6762

Having agreed conference policy on motions and amendments, General Secretary Dave Prentis reflected on the success of the demonstration on March 26th and the tremendous mobilisation by the whole union. He lambasted those on the ultra left who criticised the union for not going early last November and December and praised those who from careful preparation, hard work and commitment made the day such a fantastic show of our collective strength.

Looking to the future he talked of the need to support May Day rallies and then vote out every politician representing the coalition on May 5th. In June there will be a programme of regional events with the TUC across the country and devolved nations. Not wanting declining support from demonstration fatigue. "We need to avoid calls for an immediate repeat of March 26th, but build on the momentum it created locally and learn from the experience of planning for action carefully and properly" he said.

On pensions he said the Coalition’s intentions of increasing contributions by 3% will be a major attack on the whole future of all the schemes. Opt outs by members will undoubtedly increase as a result therefore weakening the long term viability of those left in them.

Changes in up rating from RPI to CPI are another serious cut in their overall value. UNISON will now assess all our options but it is already clear legal challenges are going to take place to these changes by some unions to try and protect individuals but also on the principle of what the government is doing.

Furthermore Labour Peer John Hutton' s attacks on the schemes will try and move it from a final salary to career average and the implications of this will need to be carefully considered, as some will gain whilst others lose from such an approach. Hutton wants these changes by 2015 and further briefings and analysis will therefore be brought back to a future meeting as negotiations are ongoing. Also the proposal to close schemes to those members transferred to the private sector will mean the cumulative effect of all these changes could well be the end of all final salary public sector schemes.

This will undoubtedly lead to industrial action on the part of the union. We will launch a massive campaign to explain these changes and hopefully prepare our members for a effective and well supported campaign for industrial action. Maximising the strength of all the unions involved will hopefully lead to co-ordinated and united action by all the unions together, but there is a real danger Dave said "that individual unions will call for action now before the outcome of the current negotiations are concluded".

Maybe the new surroundings brought about a new sense of unity on the NEC as one after another on the ultra left accepted that we are neither administratively industrially ready to launch successful industrial action with the NUT and PCS in June and recognised the importance of planning for this properly. Only the Socialist Party representative from Yorkshire believed in the need for immediate action, if not a general strike, and it was left to President Angela Lynes to despair at such a ridiculous and unrepresentative statement given the earlier comments.

The NEC also agreed a statement on Libya recognising the importance of a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Bob Oram