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

Friday, 30 December 2011

A flawed attack on UNISON

Author Owen Jones uses a platform on the Union News website (reprinted by Labourlist and the Morning Star) when previewing the challenges faced by unions in 2012 to make an ill founded attack on UNISON:

Jones claims that on pensions the UNISON ‘leadership looked set to lead a capitulation to the government, despite no movement on any of the key grievances. 2011 ended with a looming union defeat’. Perhaps it is understandable that, as a commentator looking in on unions from the outside, Jones relies on received knowledge from those on the ultra left who made blanket condemnation of the ‘heads of agreements’ reached for the NHS and local government pension schemes (LGPS) prior to Xmas.

Yet it is a matter of fact that the ‘key grievance’ of increased contributions has been warded off for members of the LGPS and for 2012/13 at least for all health workers with pensionable earnings less than £26,557.

The agreements are far from perfect, particularly the failure of central Cabinet Office level negotiations which led to the retention of indexation based on the imposed CPI (on which union leaderships collectively sold the pass by substituting a forlorn legal challenge for a political campaign) and the regressive link to the extended state retirement age of 66 (and ultimately 68).

Yet it serves no useful purpose for Jones to misrepresent the negotiated outcomes as achieving no movement on ’key grievances’ when he himself identifies the ’deficit tax’ as the casus belli of the strike action on 30 November - 'technically, it was over government pension “reforms” (a term whose meaning long ago went from “progressive social reforms” to “rolling them back”).

In reality, it was a deficit tax on public sector workers – with the extra contributions flowing straight into the Treasury’s coffers.'

Facts are stubborn things and no extra contributions from local government workers will flow into the Treasury's coffers. No rigorous analysis of the facts could conclude this to be the capitulation claimed by Jones.