Socialist Worker

Public Sector Pensions: Time for joint action

Issue No. 2268

The push for coordinated action against the government attacks will dominate the Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference next week.

The Scottish teachers’ union, EIS, is the latest organisation to signal it may strike over pensions. A ballot is set to begin this month, leading to action in November.

That means around a million workers could strike in November—potentially alongside PCS, UCU, ATL and NUT union members.


The firefighters’ FBU union has said joining the coordinated action was “increasingly likely”. Workers in Unison and Nipsa in Northern Ireland are also balloting.

Brendan Barber, head of the TUC, has said unions will decide by the end of October whether to take action against the Tory attacks on pensions.

Barber said, “Public sector workers are already subject to a pay freeze which amounts to a real terms pay cut of about five percent. Now they are being told that on top of that if they want to stay in their pension schemes they have to pay more. It’s hugely provocative.”

This is welcome—but Barber isn’t pushing for a fight.

He told the Independent, “We will have to reach a judgement once we are a little bit further down the line what the appropriate response is.”

The TUC should produce clear support for coordinated action against the government.

If a million workers can strike against the government there is no reason why the Unison, Unite and GMB unions cannot join the battle.

While there is a debate at the top of the unions on the way forward, rank and file activists are organising.

For instance, activists in the Unison union have called a branch-based meeting on pensions in London on Saturday 24 September.


The meeting is supported by the Tower Hamlets, Camden and Kirklees branches of the union so far. They are calling for other branches to add their backing.

Tower Hamlets Unison branch secretary John McLoughlin said, “It’ll be a chance for activists at branch level to get together and discuss how to take the pensions campaign forward.”

Some branches are now calling for a special conference on pensions.

For information on how to back the meeting email

Lobby of the TUC called by the National Shop Stewards Network on Sunday. Assemble Friends Meeting House, 1.30pm

Scottish conference votes for strikes

Unison’s Scottish local government conference last week passed a motion calling for strikes over pensions.

The motion, proposed by Glasgow City branch, was passed by an overwhelming majority.

It calls on the local government executive to build for “industrial action, starting with a one day strike in the autumn as part of an on-going co-ordinated campaign”.

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Tue 6 Sep 2011, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2268
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