Union leaders met at the TUC in London today, Thursday, to discuss the battle with the Tory government over public sector pensions.
The meeting was inconclusive and failed to make a clear decision on where next for the dispute.
Unfortunately, a number of union leaders want to pull back from organising further united strikes. Some have signed the government’s “heads of agreement” which would force workers to work longer, pay higher contributions and get less when they retire.
But those unions that have rejected the rehashed proposals from the government could call coordinated strikes on their own.
After the meeting PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that his union was “disappointed” at the talks. But he also vowed to meet with other unions to plan “harder hitting” action as soon as possible.
“PCS proposed we should move to a public sector-wide strike as a matter of urgency,” Serwotka told Socialist Worker. “But that did not find favour. The majority of unions reported that they’re going to take the heads of agreement back to executives and members.
“We’re disappointed with that. But we were heartened by the fact that there are still a number of unions who do not want to sign up.”
He added, “We have proposed meeting as a matter of urgency with them to discuss the possibility of further action to defend our members’ pensions.”
Around 100 trade unionists lobbied today’s meeting. They wanted leaders to call further strikes in the wake of the successful public sector general strike on 30 November.
Mark Campbell is from the UCU lecturers’ union national executive. He spoke of the anger many workers feel at the call by UCU general secretary Sally Hunt to put the government’s proposals to a ballot.
“Leadership does not mean leading from the back and wobbling,” he said.
Anna Owens, a PCS union member in revenue and customs, told the lobby that there was still the mood to resist the Tory attacks.
“The fact that we can see so many unions rejecting the offer shows we have people on the ground who want to fight,” she said.
“This is class war. We know we can win and that people are on our side.”
Activists chanted, “TUC hear us shout, Tories win when you sell out,” outside the meeting.
Niaz, a PCS member at Defra, was at the lobby. His union branch has passed a resolution calling on PCS to set the date for further strikes “no later than the end of February”.
“If we name the day we can get things moving,” he told Socialist Worker. “We want to prick the consciences of the union leaders.
“Nothing has changed. What we’ve been offered is the same as when we struck in November.”
The unions that have not signed up to the government’s proposals include the PCS, NUT, NASUWT, UCU, Unite (health and local government) and UCAC.
They should build on the success of 30 November and urgently set a date for the next wave of united strikes.
The Unite the Resistance group has called an emergency national meeting in London for this Saturday from 12 noon til 4pm to discuss the pensions fight. Speakers include Mark Serwotka, Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, and John McDonnell MP. Go to http://uniteresist.org
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