Strike to stop pension cuts: name the date

Submitted by Matthew on 20 July, 2011 - 12:42

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) Executive is talking about the idea of second strike against pension cuts in the week beginning 7 November, to follow on from the one on 30 June.

NUT is in talks with the other “J30” unions, as well as the National Association of Headteachers.

NUT is also discussing the prospect of a mass lobby of parliament in October, for which it hopes to mobilise at least one teacher from each school in the country. A special executive meeting on 9 September, the first week of the new academic year, will discuss the issue further.

Activists in the civil service workers’ union PCS say that their leadership appears genuinely enthusiastic about further action and is in discussions with other unions about naming a date in the autumn, and preferably earlier rather than later.

It is unwilling to take the lead itself, worrying that any date called by the PCS would be seen as arbitrary.

But the leadership of the big local government and health union Unison continues to use the anti-union laws as a smokescreen for their own sluggishness and conservatism, claiming at a recent National Executive Committee meeting that problems with their membership records might slow down their balloting process to such a degree as to make action impossible before 2012.

Senior Unison official Bob Abberley claimed it could take four months to simply get the membership records in sufficient order to hold a ballot.

Unison leaders also suggest that they want to exhaust the scheme by scheme negotiations now underway after the end of central talks with the Treasury before balloting.

With negotiations proceeding at differing paces in different sectors, union leaders could attempt to wait until negotiations are concluded across the board before acting. And that would mean Unison not even starting ballot preparations before October.

Rumours abound that a deal which avoids an increase in employee contributions in the local government pension scheme may be negotiable, and there are suggestions that Unison leader Dave Prentis is willing to accept such a deal even at the cost of breaking any common front of public sector workers.

Unless grassroots activists within Unison can organise sufficient pressure to force their leaders to act, it seems vanishingly unlikely that Unison members will be able to officially participate in any autumn strike dates.

The worst case scenario is the total breakdown of cross-union unity, leading to a series of scattered one-day strikes by individual unions or small groups of unions.

Or maybe all will be dragged down the pace of the slowest.

Activists inside public sector unions should agitate for a date to be publicly named as soon as possible, and for that date to be as early as possible.

And unions must explore strike levies and rolling, selective, strategically-planned and ultimately indefinite action rather than just one-day set-pieces.


Submitted by martin on Thu, 21/07/2011 - 22:55

An official letter from Government minister Danny Alexander to the TUC makes it clear that the scheme-by-scheme negotiations are about the details of how to get the overall "savings" which the Government has already fixed. They are negotiations on the lines of "we're going to cut your arm off, that's fixed, but we can do it with this knife, or with that one. Let's negotiate!"

At a public meeting in London on 18 July of the SP's National Shop Stewards' Network, Chris Baugh of PCS said that PCS will go in with action by teaching unions in November but has no current plans for other action.

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