Monday, 24 October 2011

NO to divide and rule, all unions must stand together for 30th Nov

Today we learn of the fact that the FBU will not be balloting its members on proposed pension reforms strike ballots like other public sector unions. This is a crying shame and a disapointment to hear as we approach what could still be one of the biggest strikes ever in the UK since 1926.
As a socialist we urge all union members of public sector unions faced with a ballot at the moment to vote a big yes this week and not be taken in by any divide and rule tactics this government will try and use on ordinary workers. Dont let your leaders take you fora ride keep the pressure on for industrial action. Only by standing together united we can win this battle and knock this government back off its perch.
We heard th other week of Brendan Barbour meeting tory ministers at the tory party conference for secret talks. We demand no secret talks and to keep ordinary rank-and-file informed and not hide the facts.

A striking committtee in the workplace can be a way around increasing beurocracy and remain the strikes democratic with ordinay workers. Below is a piece from union news UK and a bit from Matt Wrack on the FBU's position.

by Pete Murray of Union news UK - 19th October 2011, 12.16 BST
FBU members will not take part in the strikes on November 30th.

The decision not to ballot for industrial action, taken by members of the union’s executive committee, does not rule out strikes in the future. The news comes after the government made a key concession on changes to the fire fighters’ pension scheme.

In notes posted earlier this week on the FBU website, General Secretary Matt Wrack says Treasury ministers had agreed to extend negotiations over the “cost ceilings” on pensions. He says: “we have stated that these could set a financial ‘straight jacket’ for discussions around pensions. We have raised these concerns with various ministers, explaining our view that setting these without firstly considering other issues would clearly undermine the legitimacy of any discussions.”

The government-commissioned Hutton report on the future of public sector pensions had recommended imposing upper limits on the cost of individual schemes in an effort to limit taxpayers’ exposure to what ministers regard as “unfunded liabilities”. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, LibDem minister Danny Alexander said in June that the government intended to extend Lord Hutton’s proposals to individual pension schemes, making each scheme subject to separate negotiations and – potentially – different timetables. Unions have repeatedly challenged government claims that the public sector schemes are unaffordable in the long term.

UnionNews understands that the government and a number of local authority employers have agreed to begin a 12-week consultation on cost limits being considered for the fire fighters’ scheme. While this will provide scope for FBU negotiators to revise some of the most damaging aspects in the Coalition’s pensions agenda – such as proposed changes to the retirement age for fire fighters – it also means that the FBU will not be in a position to notify employers of a “trade dispute” (as required by the anti-union legislation covering strike ballots) until that consultation is completed early next year.

An official source said the government “would have been crazy not to try” to make concessions to some of the 14 unions planning joint strike action next month, in order to reduce the impact of what is still likely to be the largest single mobilisation of workers in the UK for a generation. The union is expected to issue a public statement calling on FBU members to support any action on the 30th of November in whatever way they can.

A statement by FBU general secretary Matt Wrack is here

October 19, 2011

19 October 2011


Dear Brother/Sister


The Executive Council met yesterday (October 18) to assess the current situation around our campaign to defend pensions. This included report backs from discussions at our Committees across the UK as well as reports from the most recent meetings with Government ministers and officials.

The most significant development to be considered was the decision of the Westminster Government to comply with the FBU request not to set an immediate cost ceiling for the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme. This clearly does not resolve the issue in any way. It does however offer us an opportunity to try influence Government before any such cost ceiling is set. Among TUC trade unions, this has put us in a unique position since cost ceilings have now been set for the main public sector schemes.

A major concern of our colleagues in other unions has been a refusal by Government to engage in serious dialogue or genuine negotiations in the other pension scheme talks. Frustration at this is a key feature of the current campaigns in a number of unions. In relation to the Firefighters scheme it would be dishonest of us to make such a claim at this time. Ministers have met us on several occasions; have agreed to all meetings requested; have currently provided all information asked for and have allocated actuaries and pension officials to assist in talks.

It is important to note that none of this means the core issues will be resolved – there remain very serious disagreements. It simply means that in terms of current talks we cannot say that Government are refusing to engage in a dialogue. Most significantly, ministers have agreed to a very important demand from the FBU i.e. not to set the cost ceiling immediately.

As a result of these and other considerations, the Executive Council concluded that there should not be an immediate move to industrial action. Such action may become necessary and the next few weeks will be crucial in assessing the Government position before such a decision is made.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally




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