“It is urgent that we start a strike ballot over the attacks on the local government pension scheme,” says John McDermott.
John is a member of the Unison union national executive. Speaking in a personal capacity he told Socialist Worker, “There are some people saying we should wait until the consultation period about the latest attacks ends. But the great danger is that will be too late.
“The earlier we fight the more influence we will have on the policies, the greater the chance of liaising with the PCS civil service workers’ union strikes in the Department for Work and Pensions, and the more chance of linking our resistance to the run-up to the May council elections.
“Members, stewards, branches and regions should urge the Unison leaders to call the ballot and to hold the special conference on pensions that has been voted for.
“We have recruited many new members over the pensions issue. We may lose them if we do not send a clear message to the employers and the government that we are up for resistance.”
The local government pensions scheme affects nearly one in ten workers in Britain. The most immediate changes do not require new laws. They need only a change to a statutory instrument.
The procedure is as follows. Consultation over the proposal to abolish the “rule of 85”, which allows some local government workers to retire at 60 on an unreduced pension, continues until 28 February.
Then the government will lay its plans before parliament. They will be open to examination by MPs for 40 days.
They can “pray” (register opposition) against the plans.
At the end of this, unless there is very significant opposition, the proposals become law. There may not even be a debate.
This procedure is designed to avoid discussion. According to the parliamentary information service, the Commons last blocked a change to a statutory instrument presented in this fashion in October 1979 — the Paraffin (Maximum Retail Prices) (Revocation) Order.
This does not bode well for those who hope that parliamentary manoeuvres will halt the changes.