Socialist Worker

Pensions: clear lead needed at a key time

Issue No. 2283

Further confusion broke out today (Wednesday) over possible deals on pensions as two unions – Unison and GMB – said they were “back on track” with a deal in local government, but Unite appeared not to be. And Unite general secretary Len McCluskey issued an “action alert” to the union’s members stressing that no deals had yet been done.

Unison said this afternoon that “A timeline and set of principles that provide a positive framework for negotiations on the local government pension scheme is back on track” after the withdrawal of a letter from Tory local government secretary Eric Pickles. This had tried to introduce new limits on pension costs. A new letter has been issued which, the union says, provides the basis to proceed to negotiations.

Unison said the “the principles have been jointly agreed by the Local Government Association, Unison and the GMB.”

That list notably leaves out Unite, a major union in local government. Unite has said no decision will be made about lifting its suspension of the heads of agreement in local government until 2012.

Unite leader Len McCluskey has sent a circular to members which says, “you will have read over the past few days of ‘deals’ being reached between government and the joint unions over the future of the schemes affecting millions of public sector workers. This is simply not true. Despite the rhetoric from government ministers, no ‘deals’ have been concluded in any of the schemes.”

He adds, “negotiations is all three schemes [local government, civil service, health] has been extremely frustrating and with government refusing to lift its impositions on RPI/CPI, contributions increases and an increased state retirement age, very difficult at best. Whatever the outcome of actual detailed negotiations, if and when these finally start in the new year, it will be you, our members that will decide whether any deal is indeed acceptable.”

Unite says its key meeting will take place on 11 January.

Amid the confusion, two issues stand out: firstly the government has offered nothing on absolutely key issues of work longer, pay more and get less. And some of the so-called improvements (such as over accrual rates) are linked to other changes that may actually worsen the overall result.

Secondly, instead of miring themselves in talks which accept the broad outline of a deal and mean strikes are called off, the unions should call more action now. There ought to be another strike at least as big as 30 November’s in January.

As the PCS union has pointed out, nothing significant has changed in the talks since before the strike and it’s time for more action.

The unions which are rejecting the “heads of agreement” deals must now work together and make a clear call for more action.

Activists, reps and executive members all have to push for this. While some union leaders flounder now is the time for the rank and file to mobilise

  • 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
  • Defend pensions – escalate action – name the day!Organised by PCS Left Unity: 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)

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