|(Nearly) all out on 10th May|
|Magazine - Trade Unions|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 07:16|
Simon Deville, Birkbeck UNISON Branch Secretary, reports in a personal capacity: While strike action in defence of pensions last November has been a massive boost to trade union membership and activism, most union leaderships have been reluctant to continue any action. The UNISON leadership has led the retreat, ensuring that no action over the Local Government Pension Scheme could be co-ordinated with other workers. Undermining the cross-trade union and cross-pension scheme unity has given those leaderships that are fighting for a better settlement an uphill struggle.
Within the NHS pension scheme the struggle continues, with Unite planning strike action for its 100,000 health service workers on 10th May. PCS was the first to call its members out alongside them. PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka was central to building the cross union unity in support of November’s action. Many union leaders were embarrassed into supporting that action for fear of losing members to rival unions if their own union was seen to be giving up the fight over pensions. The united action then made it all the more difficult to continue action after the larger unions started to pull out, so it is to PCS’s credit that they are planning further action.
The college lecturer’s union UCU is also planning action on 10th May. Other unions may still join in – most notably the NUT, which has decided that individual regions can take action if they think it is viable. As we go to press, UNISON is balloting health service members over their pensions, with the ballot closing on 27th April.
As planning for 10th May was taking place, representatives of 1,200 tanker drivers voted on 18th April to reject the latest offer in their dispute with the oil distribution companies around the errosion of safety standards. The Government is not an impartial observer. Aside from condemning any talk of action and giving ill-thought out advice about stockpiling petrol at home, the Government has a broader agenda of weakening health and safety legislation that might protect workers in dangerous jobs.The more the Government removes legal protection for workers, the more likely workers will feel that they have no option but to take strike action to improve health and safety.
For most rank and file members it is obvious why the various pension scheme proposals should be fought together – and co-ordinated with a dispute by private sector workers who can cause huge disruption. Unfortunately much of the current leadership of the unions involved in pension disputes is of the generation schooled in avoiding action and relying on their own supposed negotiating skills to deliver on behalf of a passive membership.
Building a trade union movement that can adequately take on the austerity offensive will require a complete transformation from the conservatism that has dominated most of the major unions for the last generation. We must all mobilise around 10th May as the first step in developing the kind of movement we need.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 07:18|