Monday, 20 June 2011

Unison conference, members must call on leadership to call date for strike ballot

Council workers are facing unprecedented attacks - in the form of massive job cuts and a tearing up of terms and conditions in many areas.

In just two weeks time it is expected that the government will announce their intention to impose a 3% increase in public sector pension contributions. This is a pay cut in real terms and comes on top of a two-year pay freeze. Unless defeated through mass strike action, many workers will be faced with the choice of pay up or be forced out of the pension scheme.

The government is also proposing a career average instead of final salary scheme. They plan to cut the local government pension from 1/60th of our annual salary to as low as only 1/100th and they want to make us work till we are 68.

These changes, if effected, could cost some workers up to £1,000 more a year for a pension worth nearly half of what they would get now.

Even some of the employers are panicking. They are predicting that 20-40% could leave the schemes, sending the funds into downward spirals.

If the government gets away with it, this would be the biggest attack on public sector workers' pay and conditions in a generation. That is why it requires the unions to use the full strength of the five million public sector trade unionists.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison has now declared that Unison will ballot over the summer or early autumn for strike action over pension attacks if the meeting with government on 28 June does not lead to a deal. Prentis also said: "It will not be one day of action - it will be long-term industrial action throughout all our public services to prevent destruction of our pension schemes."

This is to be welcomed by Unison members and other public sector trade unionists. This shows that trade union leaders can be forced to ballot for action, when faced with an onslaught of attacks from this government and growing anger from public sector workers.

But members attending this weeks national Unison conference which is still very labour centric sadly need to put as much militant pressure on Dave Prentice and his leadership to call the date for the strike ballot.

We heard at the NSSn conference many Unison activists saying the union would ratehr they fight isloated local issues ratehr than join mass action with other unions.

But pressure is growing and members are asking themselves why are we not joining other trade unions on strike on 30th june and later in teh Autumn.

Dave Prentice must be made aware that now is not the time for pussyfooting around. His members are under attack and are under attack right now. They need the full backing of the union and its resources to defeat these pension reforms and the further attacks on our class.

The start of the fightback will come from the three quarters of a million workers in education and the civil service who are preparing to strike on 30 June.

Unfortunately Unison will not be taking action with other unions on 30 June but the union leaders are calling on all members to support the lobbies and demonstrations and for members not to cover the work of the strikers.

Only recently Socialist Party members on the Unison national executive tried to commit the union to action on pensions no later than 31 October 2011 but this was not agreed. At a local level there are Unison branches whose members are demanding to ballot for strike action against cuts. They are being prevented from doing so by the union leadership. These ballots should now immediately be sanctioned.

We must now give full backing to the 30 June strike and use it to build for an all public-sector strike that would rock this government to its foundations.

Unison must be ready to start the pensions ballot immediately if the government refuses to back down on pension attacks
For an all public-sector strike in defence of pensions
Defend the final salary scheme
No increases in contribution rates
No to lower pension benefits

Now is the time for action and co-ordinated strike action to push the government back on this issue and further the advance on the anti cuts movement.

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