Socialist Worker

Pensions fight is back on as the government presses on with attacks

by Nick Ruff, branch chair Kirklees Unison (pc)
Issue No. 2023

The battle to defend local government pensions is on again in earnest.

The government has spurned the unions and pressed ahead with attacks on the pensions of millions of present and future workers.

The announcement last week from leaders of the Unison union that they are reigniting the dispute should be welcomed by all activists.

An e-mail from Heather Wakefield, Unison’s national officer for local government calls on everyone to make the mass lobby of parliament on Wednesday 22 November a priority.

It goes on to state that the attacks on the current pension scheme are unacceptable and the proposals for a new scheme for April 2008 cannot be recommended to members.

Furthermore all the other unions involved in the dispute have been invited to join the lobby and rally. This is the first action the union has called since the historic strike on 28 March this year.

The suspension of industrial action in April was on the basis of talks with the employers and the government. The talks were less than fruitful as the bosses made the most of the action being called off.

However the arrogance of the employers and the loss of the judicial review over a key element of the pension scheme have forced the Unison leadership into a corner.

This and the tremendous response to the Kirklees branch initiative to convene a special conference over pensions for local government members, means Unison has been forced to act.

With two weeks to go before the deadline for submission of motions, my branch, Kirklees Unison, estimates that branches representing over 150,000 members have now passed the Kirklees motion for a special conference.

So it would be reasonable to believe that the target of 200,000 will be reached.

As the leadership has become aware of the massive discontent in the branches, they have said that it would take 16 weeks to convene a conference which would then be too late.

Does anyone believe that a union like Unison could not call a meeting inside 16 weeks?

Every activist involved in the local government pension scheme dispute from all the unions must ensure that the lobby on 22 November really is a mass lobby. The government and the Tory employers must get the message loud and clear that our pensions rights are not for sale.

Proposals in the new scheme for workers to pay for the deficit in the pensions by increasing contributions by up to 3 percent (4 percent for some manual workers) have angered people more than ever.

Additionally it is proposed that the employers’ contributions are lowered.

The calling of the lobby is great news, but the union cannot just turn the tap on just to turn it off again when the government runs scared, as they have done in the last two years. Activists must argue now that the resistance continues until all attacks on our pensions are withdrawn.


Pensioners to lobby parliament

Hundreds of pensioners from across Britain are expected to take part in a lobby of parliament next Wednesday, 25 October, to demand their needs are not ignored as the government proposes new pension laws.

The lobby - organised by the National Pensioners Convention - will criticise the government’s recent White Paper on pensions for failing to address the scale of pensioner poverty.

The action begins at 11.30am when up to 50 “skeletons” will demonstrate on Abingdon Green declaring, “I died before the link with earnings was restored”.

At 12 noon there will be a rally in the Methodist Central Hall.


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News
Sat 21 Oct 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2023
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