The Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators are crowing that they have won the pensions battle. But this afternoon also displayed the fragility of the deal, and the possibility it can be defeated.
Speaking in the Commons today (Tuesday) Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said that agreements had been provisionally reached that will cut 'tens of billions of pounds in decades to come' from pensions. He claimed that the proposed deals did not mean any additional money has been made available. Instead, he said, the existing money had been used in a 'configuration' preferred by the unions.
Tory cabinet office minister Francis Maude also told a press conference that the total cost ceilings had not changed, and provocatively stated this showed 'Strike action does not work.'
Alexander said he would like to “pay tribute to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, the TUC, and the scheme negotiators on both sides for their efforts to reach agreement.”
In a rebuff to those who thought privatisation might be made more difficult by the latest deal, Alexander celebrated that the changes would allow the government to 'forge ahead' with its 'ambitious plans' for public sector reforms since the new pension arrangements will be 'substantially more affordable' to alternative providers in the private and voluntary sector bidding for public sector contracts.
But at the same time the fragility of what has been agreed was underlined when the GMB and Unite unions both said they were reviewing their support for the heads of agreement of the local government deal following new conditions laid down by Eric Pickles, the communities secretary. The government rushed to withdraw Pickles’ text in case it derailed the whole operation.
No union has fully signed up to accept the deals. The rank and file, union reps, and union executive members must organise to get these deals rejected and to force the unions to call more strikes – quickly.
- Sign the statement from leading trade unionists against the deal. Sign here: http://bit.ly/sVyIla View the signatories here: http://bit.ly/rJ8SGJ
- Trade unionists should flood their local, regional and national union bodies with demands to keep up the fight, reject the latest deals, and to name the day for another mass strike in January.
- Unison members should lobby the union’s service group executives when they meet on Tuesday 10 January at Unison headquarters in London. Put this date in your diary now! Start organising among your workmates and in your union branch.
- Everyone should lobby the TUC when it meets on Thursday 12 January.
- Email your general secretary, national executive and service group executive members.
- Pensions fight: Reject the ‘deal’, more action now: Unite the Resistance emergency national meeting, Saturday 14 January, 12 noon to 4pm, , central London – venue to be confirmed. For details go to http://uniteresist.org/
- Defend pensions – escalate action – name the day!Organised by PCS Left Unity: http://www.leftunity.org.uk/Saturday 7 January, 11am – 4pm, Friends Meeting House (opposite. Euston Station), Chair: Janice Godrich PCS President, Speaker: Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary (other speakers to be announced)