12 January 2012
Statement for the Unite Resiistance Emergency Meeting plus amendment (14 January 2012)
This emergency meeting, called by Unite the Resistance, recognises that the current pensions dispute has reached a critical stage with potentially very serious implications for mounting effective coordinated action against the Con-Dem government’s generalised assault on the public sector workforce as a whole.
Though the position in health offers a serious possibility of rejection by members across the NHS, the decisions on Tuesday 10 January by UNISON’s local government and higher education service group executive committees to accept the so-called ‘heads of agreement’ as the basis for ongoing talks – and so postpone any further action indefinitely – are undeniably a significant setback. The stance UNISON has adopted can only embolden the Government to intensify the attacks on jobs, pay and conditions as a central plank of its austerity programme.
At the same time, at least 10 unions, including service committees within Unite, have not accepted the heads of agreement. While welcoming these unions’ decisions to reject the derisory concessions as the basis for settlement, the meeting strongly believes that those unions in the ‘rejectionist’ camp should move swiftly towards further escalating action as in itself a further one-day action will not extract further concessions from the Government. Significant further delay risks squandering what remains of the momentum generated by the huge 30 November strike.
The meeting further endorses the view that there should be no scheme by scheme settlements in the absence of an overarching framework that incorporates:
· No employee contribution increases
· No increase in the basic retirement age
· No career average scheme that offers a worse overall package than current final salary schemes, and
· The restoration of the link to the Retail Price Index as the basis for uprating.
The meeting commits itself to work for coordinated action that would also embrace those sections of workers in the private sector, principally at Unilever factories, who have committed themselves to opposing attacks on their own pension schemes.
Concretely, over the course of the next month and beyond, this meeting pledges Unite the Resistance to lend its maximum feasible support to activists in the education unions, principally the NUT and UCU, to win the call for further strike action during this half-term (before Friday 10 February) as the start of a campaign of strikes that escalates prior to 1 April, when imposed contribution increases would currently kick in. Likewise, Unite the Resistance will work with those in the PCS, Unite and other ‘rejectionist’ unions to translate votes against the heads of agreement into effective opposition through further strike action. Meanwhile, particularly in UNISON and the GMB, the meeting offers full support to those activists seeking to reverse the rubber stamping of the heads of agreement through the convening of special conferences and membership-wide ballots, while also pushing for members of those unions to honour the picket lines mounted by workers taking further action over the coming weeks.
Towards these aims the meetings agrees to seek to work collaboratively with other forces (e.g. the National Shop Stewards Network, the Coaliton of Resistance and Right to Work), relevant broad left and grassroot activist organisations within the unions and, wherever practicable, Trades Councils and local anti-cuts campaigns.
Finally, this meeting commits Unite the Resistance over the coming period to support efforts to widen membership involvement and strengthen members’ democratic control over the conduct of the disputes, particularly through the creation of elected and accountable strike committees.
The following amendment was voted on and agreed by the meeting:
And to build rank and file committees with the aim of delivering action without the consent of national or regional officers if necessary.
We cannot rely on the current trade union leadership to lead us to victory against the government. We need to build on the campaign of the Sparks, with grassroots coordination and rank and file conferenmces in every union and across the unions, prepared to take action in the event of a sell out.
We seek to draw in any section of private sector workers with a grievance to take coordinated strike action alongside public sector workers with the aim of building a mass political strike against the government’s austerity agenda.