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Monday, 26 December 2011

Prentis and the TUC Leadership are Desperate to Avoid a Battle with the Government

Over 2 million people struck on November 30th. Despite Eton toff Cameron’s attempt to dismiss it as a ‘damp squib’ it is clear that the day of strikes was very successful. And that is why the Trade Union leaders – from Brendan Barber on the Right to Len McLuskey on the Left – are desperate to have the action called off in return for a few token concessions.

It was said of the TUC General Council, at the time of the 1926 General Strike, that they were more afraid of their own members than the Government. That was why, on 13th May 1926, after 9 days the TUC General Council called off the strike, even though it was becoming more solid and effective. The TU leaders preferred leaving the miners to be starved back to work, rather than challenge the constitutional and legal apparatus of the capitalist order.

As The General Strike describes it:
‘On the 11th May, at a meeting of the Trade Union Congress General Committee, it was decided to accept the terms proposed by Herbert Samuel and to call off the General Strike. The following day, the TUC General Council visited 10 Downing Street to announce to the British Government that the General Strike was over. At the same meeting the TUC attempted to persuade the Government to support the Samuel proposals and to offer a guarantee that there would be no victimization of strikers. This the Government refused to do. As Lord Birkenhead, a member of the Government was to write later, the TUC's surrender was "so humiliating that some instinctive breeding made one unwilling even to look at them."
To many trade unionists, Walter Citrine had betrayed the National Union of Mineworkers. Under the leadership of Citrine, the TUC developed a new approach to industrial disputes. As one historian has argued: "His intention was not, as during the general strike, to coerce the government, but rather to make the unions reliable partners in negotiation with employers and the government of the day."

Citrine’s approach is one the TUC has followed to this day. ‘Partnership’ with the other side of industry, showing how capitalism can be made to work, accepting that workers are the ones who must tighten their belts in the ‘national’ i.e. the bosses interest.

As the government lays waste to already negotiated pension plans, paid for by the workers who receive them, the TUC leaders are looking for a way out to save their faces. They are led by Dave Prentis, Unison’s General Secretary and a man who has never willingly called a strike when given a choice. Prentis prefers the quiet life, surrounded by yes men and women. A supporter of New Labour in a union which was badly hit by New Labour’s attacks on the low paid, he preferred whenever possible to avoid confronting the government. However to make up for this, Prentis is more than happy to witch hunt his own members if they don’t adopt his own passive approach. Year after year Unison leaders have spoken of action over pay only to capitulate as soon as possible. It is no surprise that Prentis, who has never fought for anything bar a good seat in a restaurant, should prefer fighting his members again to confronting the government.

The Pensions dispute is only one aspect of the government attack on the welfare state. The NHS is being privatised before our eyes, disability and other benefits are being slashed as claimants are being forced to take unpaid work or look for jobs that don’t exist. All in the name of competition. But any threat to the City of London and his banker friends sends Cameron & Clegg into panic.

The TUC called for a demonstration on March 26th in London and was so surprised by the turn-out and what it represented that their estimates of how many marched were less than those of the police!

Below are a few contributions from activists and others on the reaction to the intended sell-out which, for the moment has been put in abeyance. I have also copied Dave Prentis, midleader of Unison’s attempt to explain the efforts of trade union leaders, led by himself, to stop all further action.

Trade Union leaders are notorious for any lack of foresight. Unsurprising when you consider Prentis et al. are on salaries of £60,00 to £100,00 on average. Who would think that this is a government laying waste to the welfare state, that is taking a scythe to employment protection, including scrapping laws giving employment protection, has virtually ended Health & Safety Executive inspections and is looking to end ‘gold plating’ of legislation that protects workers.

But in the absence of an overtly political challenge to this government, the pensions dispute encapsulates what the real fight is about. The problem is we have a union leadership tied to the apron strings of Ed Milliband, who couldn’t bring himself to support the day of action on November 30th but who, very kindly, told Cameron he couldn’t condemn striking dinner ladies! It’s no wonder he’s lagging behind the Tories.

Our message to the union leaders should be an echo of Margaret Thatcher’s. ‘You scab if you want to scab, but we’re not going to back down.’

Tony Greenstein

Trade Union leaders
(the reaction of one activist in Brighton & Hove UNISON)

This latest development ought to be telling the leaderships that they cannot trust the Government at all over this deal.

The actions of Unison's leaders over the last few days have been absolutely scandalous. How the head of the Health Group can come out and say "this was only ever about damage limitation" is really remarkable. We weren't saying this when were trying to get people to vote yes in the ballot!

Now the Government is claiming victory and the PCS has been left isolated and excluded.

But importantly, Prentis and the other fulltimers do not have the authority to agree this deal. It has to go to the Service Group Executive Committees for Local Government and Health and it is vital that pressure is put on the lay members of those committees.

The petition is at and the current signatories can be seen at

Please sign and get others to as well. It has wellover 2000 signatures already, and it is significant that many rank and file members of my branch have signed it. There is real anger at this cave-in after massive show of strength on N30.


17 December 2011
Unions suspend pensions agreement!

In an extraordinary move, the Tories have provoked the local government unions into withdrawing from the agreement they reached yesterday. Unite, Unison and GMB have just issued the following statement:

"The Local Government Trade Unions have been surprised by the response from Eric Pickles to the joint proposal from the unions and Local Government Association for reform of the LGPS. "We understand the Secretary of State's response has subsequently been withdrawn. "In light of this confusion, we therefore suspend our agreement and now seek an urgent meeting with government to establish an agreed way forward."

Unite national officer for local authorities, Peter Allenson said: "There is a real crisis of confidence and trust which really can only be restored by this urgent meeting as soon as possible."

Heather Wakefield, UNISON head of local government, said:

“The announcement today from Eric Pickles undermines trust and confidence in the relationship with the government over negotiations surrounding the Local Government pensions scheme. “In order to re-establish confidence, and a way forward, we hope that ministers will meet us as a matter of great urgency in order to get negotiations back on track. “We are disappointed that a positive way forward appears to have been undermined in this way, and hope that government, the LGA, and the trade unions, can reach agreement on a way forward.”
Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services said,

"The proposed way forward for the LGPS, worked out by unions and council leaders, had been shared in advance with government and no problems had been raised. It is therefore all the more surprising that as Danny Alexander was announcing our agreement to the House of Commons, his Cabinet colleague Eric Pickles was completely undermining it. I think we need to restore trust and confidence urgently."

Pressure from below has undoubtedly played a role in making the unions supend the agreemnt. We now need to step up that pressure.

This is a rotten deal: it needs to be completely rejected and new strikes announced quickly.

Don't give up the pensions fight!
The government’s “final offer” is no improvement. There is no extra money on offer. The government still wants public sector workers to work longer, pay more and get less. They haven’t moved on core issues: * Fifty percent rise in pension contributions. * Normal pension age to rise to the state retirement age. Retirement at 68 for those 34 and under. * Pensions indexed at CPI instead of RPI. A cut for all existing pensioners. We agree with those union general secretaries who are against accepting this offer. We ask all union general secretaries, if is was right to strike against these proposals on November 30th how it can be right to accept them now? Ordinary trade union members have demonstrated their determination to resist these unfair and unnecessary changes; we call on our trade union leaders to reject the government's bullying tactics and their unacceptable offer.

Alex Kenny NUT Executive member (Inner London)
Andrew Baisley Camden NUT branch secretary
Dave Harvey NUT Executive member (Outer London)
Martin Powell-Davis NUT Executive member (Inner London) Nina Franklin NUT President Nick Grant NUT Executive (Outer London)
Mark Campbell UCU Executive member
Liz Lawrence UCU Executive member
Sean Vernell UCU Executive member
Loraine Monk UCU Executive member
Christine Vie UCU Executive member
David Armstrong UCU Executive member
Guy Stoate UCU Executive member
Zita Holbourne PCS NEC
Paul McGoay PCS IPS group president

The list of signatories are here:

Last Updated: 16 December 2011
Local government pensions joint union statement -
the weasel words that cover the betrayal of local government workers

Local government unions have issued a joint statement on discussions on a new set of principles and timetable for detailed negotiations on pensions.

Any outcomes will need to be ratified by the Secretary of State, but if agreed, the unions believe they "lay a positive framework" for full negotiations to start in January.

The statement stresses that no decisions have been taken over details surrounding contribution increases or the future look of the local government pension scheme.

Further details will be announced as soon as they are available.

See the full joint union statement here:

GMB releases “confidential” pensions agreement to members

by Pete Murray - 22nd December 2011,

The GMB has moved to issue a public reassurance to members over its decision to return to the government’s timetable for talks over changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

After a day of confusion over conflicting government statements about funding of the LGPS after 2014, GMB and UNISON both agreed to sign up proposals for detailed talks between unions Coalition ministers and the Local Government Association, which represents council employers in England and Wales.

For the first time, officials have publicly released the full text of the seven-page Heads of Agreement originally signed by all three unions on Monday. The document is marked “confidential”.

It says: “There was mutual recognition that the real driver should be the requirement to have regulations in place by April 2013. The government’s desire for progress on a scheme outline by the end of 2011 was recognised as a valid aspiration within that overall timetable.”

The document also specifies that “scheme cost efficiencies be realised through more effective procurement and provision of both administration and investment services”.

That will be taken as an agreement that future operation of the scheme may be tied to cuts and possible further privatisation.

In all, seven separate paragraphs cover the controversial issue of employer contributions to the scheme. They were behind the dispute on Monday and Tuesday which meant UNISON and the GMB temporarily suspended their agreement.

Unite has said it will not take part in further negotiations until it has consulted its members in local government.

The document also lays out a number of “short term pension reform objectives” for the LGPS which it says must be achieved by the end of March next year, to allow for an actuarial assessment of the value of the scheme.

The last valuation of the LGPS put its assets at £140bn, making it one of the largest institutional investors in the UK.

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services said: "GMB members will be reassured that government has recognised the LGPS needs to be treated separately from the other public sector schemes.
“This deal means there will be a full re-negotiation of the LGPS with changes to be introduced from 2014/15. This removes the threat of huge contribution rises which would have led to mass opt outs and jeopardised the LGPS funds.
“So it is good news that common sense has prevailed, it’s just a shame that it has taken 10 months and a strike to get there.”

Prentis Tries to Evade Criticism by Citing Principles not Details

A message from Dave Prentis,UNISON general secretary
Local government and health pensions update

I wanted to give you an update on negotiations in local government and health on pensions.

In local government, discussions have been taking place between UNISON, GMB, UNITE and the Local Government Association over a set of principles and a timetable for negotiations over short term savings and the new LGPS which the government wants to be in place from 2015.

The discussions have not touched on the detail of a possible solution, but we believe will lay a positive framework for negotiations, starting in January.

Although discussions between ourselves and the LGA over the principles and timetable have reached a possible conclusion, the outcomes have not yet been given the 'green light' by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, and we are not therefore in a position to make them public.

It seems likely that - if ratified - they will be announced on Tuesday and we are in the process of agreeing joint wording with the LGA for their release.

I realise that rumours have been circulating and I wanted to reassure you that no decisions have been taken over the details surrounding contribution increases or the future look of the LGPS.

However, I believe that - if agreed - the principles under discussion will provide a very positive framework for negotiations and potentially could lead to no change until 2014. We will circulate the details as soon as the Secretary of State has given his approval.

In health, negotations are continuing between all the health unions, the NHS employers and the Department of Health. Although there has been some progress, particularly around contribution increases in year one, as you may have seen reported, there are still key issues under discussion.

UNISON's service group executives will be meeting on 10 January to consider progress on all negotiations and any agreement with the LGA, if ratified.

In the meantime, keep checking our website for up-to-date information:

Dave Prentis
UNISON general secretary

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