Huge strike against pension cuts on the way

Teachers on strike against pension cuts, June 30

A massive November walkout of up to 3 million public sector workers is now on the cards as the UK's largest unions announce their intention to ballot for strike action over pension reform.

Unison, Unite and the GMB, the UK's largest biggest unions, have announced their intention to ballot for coordinated strike action against cuts to public sector workers pensions.

Other unions which have not taken action over pensions so far also indicated their intention to ballot, including the NASUWT (a teachers' union), NAHT (headteachers), FBU (firefighters), Prospect (civil servants).

Unions which took strike action over the same issue on June 30 will almost certainly join this action as well, including PCS (civil servants), NUT (teachers), ATL (teachers) and UCU (university and college workers).

Importantly, the three big unions have members in the NHS and its contractors, and have stated their intention to ballot them for industrial action as well. Unison has stated it will ballot 1.1 million members at 9000 different employers.

Despite agreeing to enter scheme-specific talks with the government without having achieved any concessions on the main planks of the overall changes, the union leaderships are now talking tough, calling this "the fight of our lives".

The three big unions have stated they will support a big one-day strike, followed by selective "smart" stoppages rolling on until next summer.

The first increase in workers' pension contribution payments, where workers will see their pay cheques shrink, is due to come in in April 2012.

Behind the scenes, it is rumoured that Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, may be prepared to make a deal if local government workers are exempted from our proposed 50% increase in pension contributions. We cannot accept this - we need to all stick together. Because if we let other groups of workers have their contributions be increased, then a couple of years down the line they will be back for ours, and those workers will think "why should we support them, when they didn't support us?".

The unions have a patchy record of defending public sector workers' pensions. In 2006 when a big wave of pension cuts were proposed, following a one-day strike, further strike action called off, and eventually a deal agreeing to significant cuts in pensions was recommended to now-demobilised union members.

If we want to have a serious chance at fighting these cuts, then we have to make this action as effective as possible, broaden it out as much as possible and take the struggle into our own control as much as possible. If we let ourselves be passively led by the unions then we will be defeated again.

Comments

terence
Sep 14 2011 18:43

I support the struggle of the civil servants strike over pension cuts in the UK,I wish our unions here in South Africa can stand together like your union.

no1
Sep 14 2011 19:16

The UCU pension strike ballot result came out today:

Quote:
Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of a strike?
YES: 12,510 (76.69%)
NO: 3,802 (23.31%)

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?
YES: 9,494 (58.06%)
NO: 6,857 (41.94%)

Turnout 42% is up substantially from the last ballot. That is in spite of the vote taking place over the summer.

RedEd
Sep 14 2011 20:35

What does "industrial action consisting of action short of a strike" mean?

Choccy
Sep 14 2011 20:46

Things like work-to-rules, go slows, refusing overtime, boycotting certain jobs etc.

no1
Sep 14 2011 20:50

or not marking exams, which uni bosses care about much more than lecturers going on strike.

Duds4u
Sep 14 2011 21:37

Looks like the first day of action is gonna be Wed 30 November.

I'm in the public sector and will be affected by the proposed changes to the Local Gov Pension Scheme. Local Government started its pay freeze a year earlier than the rest of the public sector so we are half-way through Year 2 and it wouldn't surpise me if we get stitched up for a third year - and beyond! I can see pay freezes in Local Government becoming norm - with the employers' side continuing to cite reductions in Central Government funding and relying on fear of unemployment to keep us 'docile'.

I'm not actually in a union for a whole variety of reasons - including the wide disparity between the salaries & perks of union leaders and most of their members they purport to 'represent'. So, as I can't strike on 30th - and going sick would be rather blatant - and mean I couldn't join in with any actions on the day - it looks as though I will be using a day's annual leave! If my colleague does the same it will effectively close our office for the day.

Between Your Teeth
Sep 14 2011 21:46

As a unison health member in a truly dead branch i do back office stuff in a health centre.

I'll give you a picture of my workplace. This health centre there's probably about 50 odd members of staff. Off the top of my head within the building there are people working for at least 8 different organistations (the community social enterprise, two separate GP practices, the City PCT, the Hospitals PCT, the borough council social services, the mental health trust). Within my trust, the community social enterprise, there are 5 recognised trade unions. these are Unite, Unison, Royal college of nurses non TUC and not committed to striking, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and another i forget. Also there are temporary workers employed through numerous agencies to cover staff shortages.

Of these unison is the largest of the trade unions and has a completely inactive branch, it does not meet and has not for two years (well it did secretly at one venue of the 200 odd sites the branch covers for a bit, but didn't tell anyone outside that one for reasons i still can't fathom). When i rang up the other day for advice on a work concern, they immediately tried to recruit me as rep. interesting model. the trade unions did nothing to prevent our enforced (by labour) move from a public organisation to a social enterprise and has alienated itself from the workforce in that regard who rightly ask what is the point in a union who cannot defend its members interests.

So i'm not confident locally and i imagine my situation is not unique. my concern is that the logistical complexities and historical sectional interests of the trade union movement are a dead weight and possibly insurmountable without a massive ongoing bottom up re-engagement. I know that the union is not up to date on it's membership following the ongoing multiple mergers and reorganisations of trusts and has only perfunctorily tried to address this. they told me there are 3 unison members in my workplace. i know for a fact there are more than that in the room i sit in. With the courts having successfully blocked ballots by far smaller, more experienced and better organised trade unions it may well be that we see a partial or wholesale injunctions placed on the strikes.

locally i tried to get something as simple as a briefing from a unison rep on the effects of the new pension proposals. i was hoping to organise a cross union meeting, open to all. but there is such a dearth of activists that it was not possible. despite being a 1000+ members, the branch is a shell with no steward and all info coming from regional officers or neighbouring trusts. this doesn't fill me with confidence for the upcoming strike. Although there is no shortage of anger, it is diffuse and atomised. there is no collective memory of striking and no concept of what is necessary to win struggles (leverage) or collective action. I'm 30 and this will be my first ever strike. one unison member asked me today if we get paid for striking. to be honest i'm already dreading the strike, it will be scabbed on massively and as a one day action achieve nothing for a day's lost pay.

we've sewn the seeds of the top down legalistic social partnership model of trade unionism that is in no way configured to the new realities of an austerity government, precarious employment and globalisation.

i've just depressed myself. hopefully this coming together of sections of the trade union movement and massive numbers out on strike will present a space for anarchist militants to put forward alternative forms of labour organising. we should be co-ordinating as organisations and how we interact with the strikes.

communal_pie
Sep 14 2011 22:53

Between your teeth, why do you counterpose 'anarchist militants' to yourself? You are a worker, you are going on strike, they can't fill your boots and never will be able to. Without wishing to sound rude or confrontational in any way, I hope you understand what I mean in that it's up to everyone to be positive and go out of their way and do what they can, really there's no exception to that in this life.

If the union is being useless, maybe you can get unofficial meetings together which could be much more fruitful than any sort of union-organised activity anyway, I know it's always difficult with management looking over your shoulder but I know a myriad of other workplaces whose workforces have found ingenius and often creative methods of getting around it, if you're positive about it you will probably think of something.. at least that's what I've gotten before. Maybe that's not always the case, but you can still try. Anyway I wish you the best and hope things improve from where they are.

Between Your Teeth
Sep 15 2011 07:34
communal_pie wrote:
Between your teeth, why do you counterpose 'anarchist militants' to yourself? You are a worker, you are going on strike, they can't fill your boots and never will be able to. Without wishing to sound rude or confrontational in any way, I hope you understand what I mean in that it's up to everyone to be positive and go out of their way and do what they can, really there's no exception to that in this life.

If the union is being useless, maybe you can get unofficial meetings together which could be much more fruitful than any sort of union-organised activity anyway, I know it's always difficult with management looking over your shoulder but I know a myriad of other workplaces whose workforces have found ingenius and often creative methods of getting around it, if you're positive about it you will probably think of something.. at least that's what I've gotten before. Maybe that's not always the case, but you can still try. Anyway I wish you the best and hope things improve from where they are.

Optimism of will, pessimism of the intellect and all that comrade. I wasn't intending to draw a false dichotomy between anarchist militants and workers. There is stuff that can be done outside the union form and I will encourage and pursue these where possible, I’ve done walk rounds nominally to get updated details from union members but also to talk about changes, stress importance of supporting strikes / solidarity etc. and I’m going to try and get a cross union / non union meeting together. But there is a lack of experience and confidence and no culture of resistance. This comes from a top down trade unionism model. If the strike is to be a success it needs to be built from below.

I was just attempting to show how fragmented and divided the workforce in the way it’s structured. There’s not always a great deal of interaction between these organisations, even though I work in the same building as these people. And problematically are many grades of manager within the union (my boss is the old union rep), they don’t have the option of their own separate scab union like in education and the civil service.

The anarchist militants bit was meant as an invitation to show solidarity and (urgh) make interventions, however problematic that is, as organisations and the wider movement, preferably co-ordinating our activities e.g. get together some decent propaganda, that J30 website was sweet etc.

Steven.
Sep 15 2011 09:07

Thanks people for the info about your workplaces, it's interesting getting different perspectives.

Between Your Teeth: that sounds good about trying to get those meetings together. Your situation with the union actually sounds pretty common, especially in health and in other heavily privatised/split up areas of the public sector.

In terms of being depressed, it can sound depressing, but I think that with the huge numbers of people who will probably be out, disruption will be caused even in areas where only a minority actually strike - especially if strikers join other activities like demonstrations, other pickets, potential UK uncut style occupations et cetera. So encouraging our colleagues to get involved with stuff like this is a big thing we can do as well.

Duds4u wrote:
Looks like the first day of action is gonna be Wed 30 November.

I'm in the public sector and will be affected by the proposed changes to the Local Gov Pension Scheme. Local Government started its pay freeze a year earlier than the rest of the public sector so we are half-way through Year 2 and it wouldn't surpise me if we get stitched up for a third year - and beyond! I can see pay freezes in Local Government becoming norm - with the employers' side continuing to cite reductions in Central Government funding and relying on fear of unemployment to keep us 'docile'.

I'm not actually in a union for a whole variety of reasons - including the wide disparity between the salaries & perks of union leaders and most of their members they purport to 'represent'. So, as I can't strike on 30th - and going sick would be rather blatant - and mean I couldn't join in with any actions on the day - it looks as though I will be using a day's annual leave! If my colleague does the same it will effectively close our office for the day.

I think you are right in terms of the local government pay freeze. We don't even get the £250 for people on under £21,000 per year that the rest of the public sector got.

With regard to the strike, in most workplaces they ban annual leave on strike days to prevent people doing what you are proposing.

And by taking annual leave you are effectively not striking. Not to mention that you need permission for it, so if it is vital your office stays open management won't let both of you take annually on the same day.

The point of striking is causing disruption to employers. Getting permission for annual leave doesn't do that.

Your employer doesn't know if you or any union or not. I would just say you should pretend you are one of the striking unions (probably UNISON) and not go in to work. If you want to make sure you're totally covered then what you could do is just join one of the unions (GMB's cheapest, if they go through with it) for just the month of the strike, so that you can join it with full protection.

Duds4u
Sep 15 2011 10:59
Steven. wrote:
I think you are right in terms of the local government pay freeze. We don't even get the £250 for people on under £21,000 per year that the rest of the public sector got.

With regard to the strike, in most workplaces they ban annual leave on strike days to prevent people doing what you are proposing.

And by taking annual leave you are effectively not striking. Not to mention that you need permission for it, so if it is vital your office stays open management won't let both of you take annually on the same day.

The point of striking is causing disruption to employers. Getting permission for annual leave doesn't do that.

Your employer doesn't know if you or any union or not. I would just say you should pretend you are one of the striking unions (probably UNISON) and not go in to work. If you want to make sure you're totally covered then what you could do is just join one of the unions (GMB's cheapest, if they go through with it) for just the month of the strike, so that you can join it with full protection.

Thanks for this Steven

There is no ban here on taking annual leave on strike days - possibly because, to the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever withdrawn their labour - not even the single union (Unison) member we have in another building! Annoyingly I have checked my diary and realised I wouldn't have been at work anyway on 30 Nov as I am down to attend an annual training conference run by my professional body.

No problem with getting permission for annual leave as I am usually left to give it to myself! Sadly, if neither of us were here for a week few people would notice - or care.

Going off tangent a little: the most distressing thing to me about public sector workers taking industrial action in a national dispute is the impact (whether 'inconvenience' or actual hardship) on other workers and the vulnerable relliant on public services (I know efforts are made to avoid the latter but it can happen). It is the ConDem Coalition that is being intransigent as far as the public sector pension scheme 'negotiations' are concerned so how about embarking on a rolling programme to disrupt their party machines and organisation at all levels - from local constituency offices/assocaitions (including their social events) upwards? The party workers would pretty soon get hacked off with that and apply pressure upwards.

Ramona
Sep 15 2011 14:50
Steven. wrote:
Other unions which have not taken action over pensions so far also indicated their intention to ballot, including the NASUWT (a teachers' union), NAHT (headteachers), FBU (firefighters), Prospect (civil servants).

Unions which took strike action over the same issue on June 30 will almost certainly join this action as well, including PCS (civil servants), NUT (teachers), ATL (teachers) and UCU (university and college workers).

Up in Scotland, EIS, the education union, has started the process of balloting for strike action too, and if they go out on Nov. 30 then it'll be the first time education unions across the whole of the UK will be taking coordinated action - hurrah!

Between Your Teeth
Sep 16 2011 21:06
Duds4u wrote:
Steven. wrote:
I think you are right in terms of the local government pay freeze. We don't even get the £250 for people on under £21,000 per year that the rest of the public sector got.

With regard to the strike, in most workplaces they ban annual leave on strike days to prevent people doing what you are proposing.

And by taking annual leave you are effectively not striking. Not to mention that you need permission for it, so if it is vital your office stays open management won't let both of you take annually on the same day.

The point of striking is causing disruption to employers. Getting permission for annual leave doesn't do that.

Your employer doesn't know if you or any union or not. I would just say you should pretend you are one of the striking unions (probably UNISON) and not go in to work. If you want to make sure you're totally covered then what you could do is just join one of the unions (GMB's cheapest, if they go through with it) for just the month of the strike, so that you can join it with full protection.

Thanks for this Steven

There is no ban here on taking annual leave on strike days - possibly because, to the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever withdrawn their labour - not even the single union (Unison) member we have in another building! Annoyingly I have checked my diary and realised I wouldn't have been at work anyway on 30 Nov as I am down to attend an annual training conference run by my professional body.

No problem with getting permission for annual leave as I am usually left to give it to myself! Sadly, if neither of us were here for a week few people would notice - or care.

Going off tangent a little: the most distressing thing to me about public sector workers taking industrial action in a national dispute is the impact (whether 'inconvenience' or actual hardship) on other workers and the vulnerable relliant on public services (I know efforts are made to avoid the latter but it can happen). It is the ConDem Coalition that is being intransigent as far as the public sector pension scheme 'negotiations' are concerned so how about embarking on a rolling programme to disrupt their party machines and organisation at all levels - from local constituency offices/assocaitions (including their social events) upwards? The party workers would pretty soon get hacked off with that and apply pressure upwards.

Hey, this helps bring to the foreground a pretty common issue I've run into around strikes. When i talk to my colleagues outside the union or in other unions, even if there are generally , supportive there is usually an expression of reluctance to take part because of the perceived sanctions. Can anyone here point me in the direction of a resource that helps clarify what the legal situation is around strike action? And if there isn't do we think it'd be useful to get one together for the upcoming strike wave?

Steven's stuff I've seen him post around 1) employers not being allowed to know who and who isn't in a union and thus to be protected from persecution 2) the use of health and safety legalisation to close down striking workplaces and 3) the legal situation around having to take identical disciplinary action against all unauthorised absences, of which striking is one, all look like valuable tools. Reckon it'd be immensely useful to tie together into a leaflet or article. I know very little around this area myself, having very little experience of withdrawing my labour, and i'm probably not the only one so i'd be glad to have this as a resource.

obviously we'd like workers to take action outside of the legal parameters proscribed by the state, but this isn't always a reality and any knowledge around the matter that can be spread around is useful. what do people reckon?

Chilli Sauce
Sep 16 2011 23:10

Between, check this: http://solfed.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/dcpl2.pdf

Alternatively, hit me up on training[AT]solfed.org.uk and I can send you a .pdf of the LRD booklet on strikes and picketing.

Between Your Teeth
Sep 17 2011 09:17

ah cheers, i had completely forgotten about the existence of that leaflet. that's just what i was after. hitting you up with an email now.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 17 2011 23:16

Between, got your email, get back to you tomorrow (sunday). Thanks to whoever broke the email address in my last post.

Phil
Sep 18 2011 19:51
Duds4u wrote:
I'm not actually in a union for a whole variety of reasons ... So, as I can't strike on 30th

Actually, you can. Both the law and government guidelines allow for non-union workers being convinced not to cross picket lines. It's where you are a member of a non-striking union that the issue arises, but even then signing a form on the picket line and dual-carding would solve that issue soon enough.

Steven.
Sep 18 2011 20:44
Phil wrote:
Duds4u wrote:
I'm not actually in a union for a whole variety of reasons ... So, as I can't strike on 30th

Actually, you can. Both the law and government guidelines allow for non-union workers being convinced not to cross picket lines. It's where you are a member of a non-striking union that the issue arises, but even then signing a form on the picket line and dual-carding would solve that issue soon enough.

the first point (about the law and government guidelines) isn't true, but you are correct to say that either way you can just join a striking union on the picket line. You could even leave it the following month.

The important points on not crossing picket lines are firstly that your employer will not know if you are in a union or not, and secondly and more importantly that there is strength in numbers!

Chilli Sauce
Sep 18 2011 20:56

Also, management can't ask what union you're in or whether you're in a union. If you're in a job that could be on strike, chances are they'll assume you're a union worker on strike. If they ask you before or after if you're in a union, tell them to fuck off.

It's tougher if you're not in a job role that has been balloted for strike action but, as alwayssq., safety in numbers. All who refuse to cross have to be treated the same in relation to any subsequent disciplinary action otherwise it's a very clear case of victimisation. The more who refuse to cross, they safer you'll all be.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 18 2011 20:58

Steven, I think Phil probably meant that the law allows for workers to claim they feel unsafe crossing a picket line as opposed to being "convinced".

Duds4u
Sep 18 2011 20:59
Steven. wrote:
Phil wrote:
Duds4u wrote:
I'm not actually in a union for a whole variety of reasons ... So, as I can't strike on 30th

Actually, you can. Both the law and government guidelines allow for non-union workers being convinced not to cross picket lines. It's where you are a member of a non-striking union that the issue arises, but even then signing a form on the picket line and dual-carding would solve that issue soon enough.

the first point (about the law and government guidelines) isn't true, but you are correct to say that either way you can just join a striking union on the picket line. You could even leave it the following month.

The important points on not crossing picket lines are firstly that your employer will not know if you are in a union or not, and secondly and more importantly that there is strength in numbers!

Just found this on the direct.gov.uk site:

Industrial action by workers who are not trade union members

If you take part in industrial action when you are not a trade union member you are normally treated as taking part in unofficial action. This means that if you are dismissed while taking part in the action you normally have no right to complain of unfair dismissal.

You can still claim if the reason for your dismissal was automatically unfair.

You are treated as taking part in official action if both:
•members of a trade union are taking part in it
•the action is official industrial action taken by their trade union

This means that the law treats you in the same way as it treats trade union members. Your rights if you are dismissed depend on whether the industrial action is protected or unprotected and when you are dismissed.

Steven.
Oct 24 2011 19:16

The FBU is not going to be balloting, contrary to previous rumours:
http://www.fbu.org.uk/?p=4805

pretty disgusting

Steven.
Nov 2 2011 11:42

Crunch talks are now going to take place, as apparently the government is saying they are going to make a better offer to try to avert strikes:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/nov/02/public-sector-pension-enhanced-offer

Steven.
Nov 2 2011 16:36

The TUC have just put out a press release on the meeting today. Basically, the government have offered to increase accrual rates on what they currently are, and say they commit to not reviewing pensions again for the next 25 years.

The TUC say they are going to consider it, basically.

In the 2006 pensions dispute, unison agreed to an overall pension cut of 10%, but the accrual rate went up from 1/80 of final salary per year to 1/60.

I think the biggest issue for most workers is the 50% increase in contributions (as this will hit our pay packet hard), so hopefully the action on the 30th will still go ahead.

I don't know what a commitment to leave it for 25 years actually means, I'm pretty sure that would be forgotten about sharpish - the 2006 reforms were meant to make public sector pensions affordable up until around 2060, and that they are being changed only three years after they came in!

PartyBucket
Nov 2 2011 17:09

Just got an email from UNITE:
"Unite, your union, has analysed these proposals and concluded that this is an offer we cannot accept on your behalf."

the button
Nov 3 2011 16:01

The main thing that I got from the recent government announcement on an "improved" pension settlement was a fairly blatant attempt to split older & younger workers -- 50+ workers' pensions stay pretty much as is, with no lengthening of working life. Is how it was presented, anyway.

Steven.
Nov 3 2011 18:36
the button wrote:
The main thing that I got from the recent government announcement on an "improved" pension settlement was a fairly blatant attempt to split older & younger workers -- 50+ workers' pensions stay pretty much as is, with no lengthening of working life. Is how it was presented, anyway.

This has been the case all along. However the issue is not just the lengthening of working life but is a 50% increase in contributions, switch of operating from RPI to the lower CPI (which cuts 15% of everyone's pensions in one fell swoop) and a decrease in the accrual rate.

UNISON have voted 78% in favour of strike action. The turnout was 29% - which is about average in terms of turnout in a really big ballot. For comparison, IIRC our national pay strike in 2008 there was a vote in favour of around 55% on a similar turnout.

Steven.
Nov 9 2011 22:30

Headteachers in the NAHT vote to strike for the first time in 114 years:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/nov/09/headteachers-vote-strike-action-pensions

Choccy
Nov 9 2011 23:10

aye, and with a 53% turnout (albeit from a smaller pool)
god, you know things must be shite if even heads are striking

still no indication whether they'll go with Nov30 yet

Steven.
Nov 10 2011 16:58
Choccy wrote:
aye, and with a 53% turnout (albeit from a smaller pool)
god, you know things must be shite if even heads are striking

still no indication whether they'll go with Nov30 yet

it would be a bit ridiculous of them not to