Socialist Worker

Hundreds debate way forward in pensions dispute at packed meeting

Issue No. 2286

An emergency national meeting of Unite the Resistance brought together over 400 trade union activists in London last Saturday.

The meeting called on unions to reject the pensions deal being pushed by the government, which would mean workers paying more, working longer and getting less back (see pages 8&9).

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said, “The deals on offer are as miserable and pathetic as anything you have seen.

“30 November was the best of trade unionism and class struggle. What’s happened afterwards is the worst.”

Other speakers included left wing Labour MP John McDonnell, Sean Vernell from the UCU union national executive and Karen Reissmann from the Unison national executive.

The second part of the day saw activists split into different sectors to discuss how to build resistance.

There was a serious discussion on whether the unions that have rejected the deal should call a further strike date now.

Kevin Courtney is on the national executive committee of the NUT teachers’ union, which has also rejected the deal.

“The NUT has been prepared to take action with very small numbers of unions,” he said.

Plan

“But I think it’s different if members feel they are on the declining edge of the campaign whether they will take action.”

Serwotka echoed this note of caution. He warned that it could take some time to agree on a plan with other unions.

“It’s not enough just to say ‘name a day and name it quickly’ in the absence of having a very clear and worked-out strategy,” he said.

Many activists challenged this approach.

Candy Udwin, a PCS member, said “The task is to give a lead—and there is an urgency to that, because hesitation doesn’t help any of us.

“It doesn’t help the unions that want to fight. It doesn’t help the unions where people are trying to clamp down on the fight.”

Dave Gibson, from the UCU executive, agreed.

“If we’ve got a day of action that has got UCU, NUT and PCS signed up to it for a start, that will help strengthen the argument inside Unite in terms of those fighting to come out,” he said.

“They’ll say this is a date we want to be out on as well, and it will help every activist in every other union who’s signed up—even if it’s only around not crossing picket lines.

“This will give us momentum back in the campaign.”


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