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

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Unity is the Key, Unity and Action

Following Dave Prentis’ announcement that UNISON would be balloting 1 million workers, Congress came alive this morning, as union after union joined the debate on the pensions composite.

Mark Sewotka seconding stated that the Government had made no case for change, but was using “propaganda, lies and distortion” and a campaign of

This was a common theme of the contributors.

It was pointed out by speaker after speaker that there is no case that public sector pensions are unaffordable- the Hutton report itself demonstrates that, and that the pensions schemes that were negotiated only five years ago (by the last Labour Government, ED) were eminently sustainable.

Another common theme was a direct reply to the Labour Leader, who talks about negotiations as if the union movement had no been engaged in those for the past eight months - eight months in which Osborne has negotiated with no one as he makes announcements in the House of Commons like the change from RPI to CPI, cutting millions from pensions, not just those in the public sector.

Or his stealth tax on public sector workers, increasing contributions across all schemes, not on grounds of sustainability but to claw back money into the Treasury to pay for the deficit.

As one speaker noted, working people really should not have been dabbling in the sub- prime market and needing that large bail out!!! How much negotiation took place then? Those involved in the negations pointed out that those ministers involved will simply not provide the basic information required to allow discussions to begin.

It was not all public sector unions who spoke. The CWU noted that the plans for increasing the pensions age will have their own disastrous effect on longevity.

Gail Cartmail of Unite stated company directors have not limited the size of their own pension pots, and will retire on an average of £204,000 per year (the number of zeros there is correct) At the same time those directors ensure that private sector schemes are closed or changed to the detriment of workers . This fight is a fight for fair pensions for all and we cannot allow ourselves to be divided.

Indeed as the speaker from the UCU notes, who is David Cameron think he is talking about when he talks about the “public” or “the burden on the taxpayer” because we are the public and we are the taxpayers, but as the Bullington Boy is able to rely on a private income he has probably never had a pay slip with his tax code on it, something that any trade union member knows well.

Matt Wrack of the FBU had Congress laughing when he stated that the FBU rejected the idea of fire fighters with Zimmer frames still fighting fires, but when on to point out that a further 3.25% pension contribution, on top of the 11% already paid, at a time of a pay freeze would simply asking firefighters if they could afford to be part of the scheme. The absurdity of the Government position was demonstrated in the fact that cutting public sector pensions will only increase the numbers of those requiring to claim state benefits, rather than allowing them to save for their old age, as they can do at the moment.

The tone of the debate was measured and careful, but the unity of purpose and unity of action cannot be questioned. Congress passed the composite unanimously. But the message now is - go back to your branches and win the ballot

Jane Carolan