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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 June 2012

Unison conference: members show anger at pensions 'offer'

Jane James
Unison members join the 30 November N30 public sector strike in Leeds, photo Iain Dalton

Unison members join the 30 November N30 public sector strike in Leeds, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

At the first day of Unison's 2012 local government conference on Sunday 17 June, the service group executive (SGE) gave an outline of the government's pensions offer. The SGE leadership stressed many times that the conference could not decide whether to accept the pensions deal. This was up to the members, who should be consulted.

The retirement age will be linked to the state retirement age, which will be 68 by 2044. Workers under 37 may have to work until they're 70! There were many examples of how people cannot and should not work to that age.

It would now be a career average instead of a final salary pension. At the usually lower Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation, rather than Retail Prices Index (RPI) combined with a worse accrual rate, they'll get a lower pension after paying for longer.

Work longer, get less

Many of the delegates spoke about working longer and getting less. There were calls to join with other unions to take more action.

Last year people were saying "name the day" for strike action. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis responded that it would take more than one day to defeat this government. Yet after just one day of strike action, the Unison leadership signed-up to the government's 'heads of agreement'.

Many delegates, including Socialist Party members and others on the left, demanded that, first of all, the consultation does not take place in July and August, when most school workers would be away from their workplace and many other workers would be on holiday. Therefore it would be very difficult to engage with these workers to explain the offer.

There were also demands that the SGE should make a recommendation to the members on how to vote, but the SGE refused.

The leadership castigated ordinary reps for saying these issues should be discussed in the workplaces. The leadership said the decision should be just left to members, forgetting that everybody in the audience were members!

Fringe meeting

A lunchtime fringe meeting on pensions was absolutely packed. Glenn Kelly reminded the meeting about the high pay and pensions that Unison officials get. This was repeated inside the conference in the afternoon, with a lot of anger shown by delegates.

The other complaint was that the pensions offer was a 'done deal' negotiated behind members backs with no consultation.

There were solidarity greetings from Spain, with the point made that British workers will end up in the same conditions as Spanish workers unless we fight back. There were also lots of contributions about how brilliant the 30 November strike day was.

It was an extremely lively debate with many delegates very angry at the leaders, who seem to want to get the deal signed by not sending out any recommendation, giving the impression that there's nothing else to go for.

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In The Socialist 20 June 2012:

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Leveson inquiry - The 1%: "definitely in this together"

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Support the final sprint to the fighting fund quarter finish line

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UCU: Time to fight on pay and pensions

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Unite needs strategy to step up fight against austerity

Unison conference: members show anger at pensions 'offer'

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